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14 - Competition and Labour Law in the United Kingdom

History, Theory and Practice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2022

Sanjukta Paul
Affiliation:
Wayne State University, Detroit
Shae McCrystal
Affiliation:
University of Sydney
Ewan McGaughey
Affiliation:
King's College London
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Summary

What is the proper relationship between competition and labour law? In the UK since at least 1906 every real ‘person’ has had ‘freedom of association’ and is free to take collective action in a ‘trade dispute’, whether an employee, or self-employed. This principle was necessary for fair competition, fair working time, and fair wages. It forms a cornerstone of labour relations. The UK’s experience informed US antitrust law, the International Labour Organisation, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ‘Everyone’ in international law has the right to ‘just and favourable remuneration’, to join unions for ‘the promotion’ of their ‘social interests’, and the ‘right to strike’. UK and international law equally influenced EU law. Like all EU members states, since World War Two the UK has never used competition rules to suppress unions. This chapter explains the law on combinations, conspiracy and restraint of trade. Modern competition law, focused on undertakings, developed to break private monopoly power of unaccountable corporations, not to suppress fair wages and voice at work. Cases of collective action from self-employed barristers, to drivers and book dealers illustrate this. Competition law’s proper focus is unaccountable corporate power, to build a plural, more democratic economy.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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