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Unit information: Workers, Unions and Collective Labour Rights in 2021/22

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name Workers, Unions and Collective Labour Rights
Unit code LAWDM0149
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Novitz
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will enable students to examine various aspects of collective labour law, with reference to social and democratic theory, regulatory design, and the wider social and economic context. The focus will be on UK law, with additional reference to international and European labour standards. Where appropriate comparative studies from other common law countries will also be discussed, as will recent developments in continental Europe. Students will have the opportunity to analyse freedom of association, its relevance as a human (and constitutional) right and its implications for democracy and equality. They will consider different forms of worker voice and collective organisation, including social movement unionism. We will explore scope for trade union representation, with reference to current provision for access to the workplace and statutory recognition procedures, alongside tendencies to privilege non-independent and non-representative trade unions. We will consider trade unions’ relationships with their members and regulation through the Certification Officer, including restrictions on the use of political fund. Access to information and consultation arising under European Union law will further be investigated. Opportunities for collective bargaining and enforcement of agreements reached (at workplace, enterprise and sectoral levels) will be investigated, alongside the statutory bodies established for their oversight: the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). Controversy regarding the status of the right to strike under international, European and domestic law will be considered, alongside UK restrictions on industrial action, including picketing. The scope for transnational organisation and trade union activity will also be examined.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the unit learners that engage with this unit will be able to:

  1. identify and critically assess various normative underpinnings of collective labour law;
  2. appreciate the relevance of international and European human rights and other instruments relevant to collective labour law;
  3. analyse the relevance of social movement unionism and engage critically with contemporary sociological literature;
  4. understand and evaluate the workings of UK statutory institutions and legislative provisions relating to worker voice and their implications nationally and transnationally.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Details

2 x summative assessments: 2x coursework with a specified word count (50% each)

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

The materials for this unit will all be available on Blackboard – either as PDFs of book chapters or links to primary and secondary legal resources. It is not anticipated that there would be any further burden on University library resources as a result of the teaching of this unit. Key readings include:

  • Alan Bogg and Tonia Novitz (eds), Voices at Work (OUP, 2014)
  • Alan Bogg, Ruth Dukes and Tonia Novitz (eds), Special Issue: ‘Contemporary Issues in Collective Labour Law’ in (2017) 46(1) Industrial Law Journal
  • Michael Ford and Tonia Novitz (eds), Special Issue: ‘Trade Union Act 2016’ (2016) 45(3) Industrial Law Journal
  • Pascale Lorber and Tonia Novitz, Industrial Relations Law in the UK (Intersentia, 2012)
  • Alan Bogg, The Democratic Aspects of Trade Union Recognition (Hart, 2009)