To ascertain whether legislative and trade
union approaches, aimed at reducing employment inequality, can be considered in
isolation, it is important to evaluate the effect litigation and collective
bargaining can have on each other. One particular legal outcome of the ruling
in Allen and others v GMB portrays an
example of adverse interactions between legislation, trade unions and the UK
government.  Moreover, The case highlights the historically hostile
nature between trade union collective bargaining and its relationship with
equality legislation.

The Single Status Agreement, a collective
local government agreement, requires local authorities to make the terms and
conditions of their workforce more equal, which, in most cases, entails job
evaluation exercises that have revealed historical female pay discrimination.

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Under the agreement, aforementioned revelations of equal pay discrepancies
warranted not only increasing the wages of those effected, but also
compensating for the entire period of discrimination. In Middlesbrough Borough
Council, the collective agreement secured pay protection for male workers at
the expense of back pay entitlements. After several complicated legal issues,
the affected women were able to indict the trade union with charges of indirect
discrimination and victimisation. The government refused to compensate for any
outcomes of the Single Status Agreement. As a result, the trade union was held
financially responsible for compensating women for historical wage
discriminations.

Another case, Preston v Wolverhampton Healthcare Trust, displays a positive
interaction between trade union activity and legislation to counter employment
inequality. Unlike the Allen and others v
GMB case where legislation adversely affected trade unions, in this case
legislation has an empowering effect on trade union activity. Another important
aspect that this case highlights is the diminishing importance of trade unions
when collective bargaining is traded for adversarial legislation.

The Preston
v Wolverhampton Healthcare Trust case concerns about 60,000 women, who were
wrongly denied access to their pension schemes. The case stems from a group of
part-time workers claiming that they were discriminated against under the Equal
Pay Act by the aforementioned exclusion from pension scheme. To redress this
discrimination, a number of trade unions combined, and sought legal recourse
for 60,000 cases. Even though, this evidently depicts one of trade unions
strengths, collective might, it also casts doubts on the importance of union
membership as, ultimately, legislation played a much greater role in providing
rights.

 

Conclusion:

Critically evaluating, in isolation, the
advantages and disadvantages of trade union and legislative approaches to
redress employment equality in the UK revealed the detrimental influence of
political conservatism on legislation. Despite repeated calls proactive
legislation, the actions of the coalition government, in relation to the
Equality Act 2010, severely undermined the proactive aspects of the Equality
Act 2010.

After considering several instances of
interactions between trade unions and legislation, it is evident that these
approaches cannot be considered in isolation. The Allen and others v GMB ruling demonstrates the vulnerability of
collective bargaining in the face of legislation, and, more importantly, the
futility of considering trade union and legislative approaches in isolation.

The absence of either approach in the aforementioned case would have resulted
in completely different outcomes.  For
example, considering the trade union approach in isolation, without taking
legislative recourse into consideration, will result in an unrealistic analysis
of the situation. In contrast, the Preston
v Wolverhampton Healthcare Trust case demonstrates the empowering effect of
equality legislation on trade unions, but also questions the importance of
trade unions when legislative means are sought to redress employment
inequality. The case could also lend support to the argument that litigation is
becoming increasingly more important than trade unions.

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