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Effective rights and law implementation

A research study examined the under-researched role of trade unions with regard to statutory rights in relation to sex, race and other forms of discrimination. It addressed key issues of rights enforcement and the potential of reflexive regulation as well as its limitations.
Effective rights and law implementation
An EU-funded project, TUDISMO (Trade unions, discrimination and legal mobilization : Making rights effective), conducted a cross-national and cross-organisational comparative analysis of the legal mobilizations led by trade unions to combat discrimination, in France and in the United Kingdom, from 1970 to 2016. The work was carried out with a variety of qualitative methods that consisted of secondary sources, documentary sources and semi-structured interviews.

Empirical material was used to reflect on the potential and pitfalls of employment and anti-discrimination law implementation in both countries. Evidence showed that claims supported by trade unions are many and that their number has grown considerably over time in both countries.

Researchers also found that collective litigation, including the use of European courts, remains a very unusual repertoire of action for trade unions. One reason for this might be related to the difficulties trade unionists have with legal concepts, especially those from European law, to challenge discriminatory employment practices.

Power relations in the workplace have an influence on the shape of unions’ rights mobilizations. A reluctance of unions to litigate is evident in the fear that litigation might increase employers’ inflexibility or force them to resort to job and service cuts. It also shows the difficulties unions may encounter when representing the competing (gendered) interests of their diverse membership. Researchers found that organisational responses to legal norms need to be understood within the broader context of the dynamics of employment relations.

Outcomes show a major difference between the two nations. The state of France encourages the promotion of a social dialogue culture. Employers thus have the incentive to formally engage with trade unions to implement and create legal norms and rules with collective bargaining in the workplace. In the United Kingdom, however, trade unions are weak when it comes to the policymaking process. Both examples highlight how law mobilization can challenge set beliefs about work, trade unions and gender.

TUDISMO findings can contribute to academic and public policy debates regarding the conditions under which legal rights have meaning and impact.

Related information


Trade unions, discrimination, TUDISMO, employment, legal mobilization
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