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‘Immunity’, ’Privilege’, and ‘Right’: British Trade Unions and the Language of Labour Law Reform

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A continuing debate exists among labour lawyers in the United Kingdom as to the most appropriate legal framework for the regulation of collective industrial action. Many have argued that a change in legal form will not in itself afford greater protection to union activity. Through an analysis of the changing approach of the trade union movement to the issue of ‘immunities’ and ‘rights’ during the Thatcher period, this article seeks to demonstrate that adoption of the ‘rights’ discourse in fact offered considerable strategic advantages. In consequence, any analysis of this question should not overlook the significant political role played by language.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The Norwich Law School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ, England

Publication date: September 1, 1998


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