Employment Rights -- A Reference Handbook
Richard W Painter, Keith Puttick with Ann Holmes, Pluto Press 1998, 456pp.

Review by Andy Brooks.
THE authors of this hefty reference book admit that prior to the last election they were beginning to wonder whether Employment Rights was still an appropriate title for the second edition. Labour's victory, soon followed by the White Paper, Fairness at Work, made revision a matter of urgency.

 Whether New Labour's "reforms" including the minimum wage marks a halt in the attack on trade union rights which began when the Tories returned to oflice in 1979 and continued until their massive defeat in 1997, depends on the organised strength of the working class itself in the months and years of struggle to come. In the meantime the legal standing of workers today is detailed in this comprehensive work of reference.

 Though written by two academics and a solicitor this is no dry encyclopedia of facts and figures but an easy to read guide in lay terms covering every aspect of labour law including the developments around the Social Chapter of the European Union and the European Convention of Human Rights.

 The mark of a good reference book is accessibility and this book gets ten out often for its comprehensive index, contents summary and case and statute table page references which appear at the beginning of Employment Rights. Individual Rights, Discrimination, Job Loss, Health and Safety, Collective Rights, Legal Action and Welfare Benefits are dealt with in depth in six chapters packed with information and explanatory comment.

 This is not an "impartial" book. The authors look at law and the unions from the standpoint of the labour movement itself. They explain why unions have historically been opposed to the use of the courts in industrial disputes, for instance in an excellent summary of the development of the law on trade unions from the 1871 Trade Union Act to 1998 in eight pages.

 Picketing, the use of tribunals and claiming benefits are dealt with in equal detail together with race and sex discrimination, unfair dismissal and redundancy -- and every other aspect of trade union legislation.

This book has been written for the movement and it will certainly prove useful to full-time and lay union negotiators. Union activists will find ita worthwhile addition to their collection of reference books.

 And it's book that should be on the shelf of every trade union branch library and shop steward's desk for any member to browse through -- not to mention public libraries which often will order books at readers' requests.


 Pluto Press is making copies of Employment Rights available to New Worker readers at the SPECIAL OFFER price of £17.50 including p&p in the UK (full price £19.99 plus p&p). To buy a discounted copy, either call Pluto Press direct on 0181 348 2724 with your credit card and quote reference PLNW1, OR e-mail at pluto@plutobks.demon.co.uk OR send a cheque to Pluto Press, FREEPOST, ND6781, London N6 5BR. Please make your cheque payable to Marston Book Services, In each case remember to quote ref PLNW1 for the discounted price.

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