[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2013.
The focus of both academic and public debate on the expression of work-related conflict
has long been focused on strikes. Substantial declines in collective disputes have
been associated with more harmonious and less conflict-laden employment relations.
This research deals with another, often forgotten form in which conflict is manifested,
namely the settlement of individual conflicts through labour courts or employment
tribunals. Its aim is to explore and explain differences in application rates to national
judicial bodies both across countries and over time. Using a novel database on 23
European Union Member States, it is found that a substantial degree of variance exists;
claim rates across Europe differ substantially, and countries have developed along
different lines. The explosion of court applications is found to be exceptional, and
stability or volatility is identified in the large bulk of EU Member States. In order
to explain cross-sectional and time differences, the research draws on wide range
of literature, develops a new procedural concept of conflict, and proposes a comparative
neo-institutionalist framework accounting for both institutions and actors.The theoretical
discussion elaborates three sets of arguments to predict claim incidence. First, it
is argued that the existence of comprehensive collective industrial relations institutions,
particularly employee workplace representation and collective agreements, tend to
reduce the frequency of labour court claims. Second, the amount and complexity of
employment regulation is argued to have an impact on the incidence of court applications.
Finally, cyclical economic conditions and individual characteristics of the potential
grievant are expected to predict the phenomenon.Empirical evidence is presented from
a range of different data sources, such as national administrative data and large-scale
surveys for three country case studies on France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Findings support that all three sets of explanations contribute to the explanation
of the incidence of labour court claims. Moreover, data seem to confirm the need for
an interdisciplinary approach drawing on different bodies of literature.
There is a lively debate in the United Kingdom about the impressive increase in employment
tribunal claims. The aim of this PhD is to explore and explain this development from
a comparative perspective. For this purpose, the study compares the incidence of labour
court or employment tribunal claims in 23 European countries. It is found that there
are great differences in Europe whereas claims rates in the UK are below average,
which indicates that there are fewer tribunal applications in the UK than in most
other European countries.There are numerous explanations for the variance in tribunal
claims. We present evidence that employee representatives play a crucial role in the
internal settlement (and, indeed, avoidance) of conflict. If the employee has no mean
to address conflict through an employee representation institution, it is argued,
they are more likely to take their grievance to an employment tribunal. Similarly,
we show that companies that are covered by a collective agreement report fewer claims.
Our explanation suggests that agreements represent a set of rules that employers and
employees have agreed on, which increases its legitimacy and acceptance, and might
help to avoid conflictual behaviour.A second argument proposes that the increased
caseload for British employment tribunals is associated with more and more complex
employment regulation and an easier access to the tribunal system. We discuss this
argument and find that it helps to explain parts of the phenomenon, but more data
are needed to elaborate the explanation in more detail.Finally, the incidence of court
claims is found to depend on cyclical economic conditions. In particular, tribunal
caseload increases and decreases with the unemployment rate, and companies in economic
difficulties report higher claim rates.The research suggests that the articulation
of conflict through the employment tribunal system depends on a range of factors,
but is not the product of a tendency towards a ‘compensation culture’. If policy-makers
want to limit the use of the court system, other mechanisms to articulate conflict
should be in place, for instance through comprehensive trade union representation.
Limiting the access to the tribunal system, for example through application fees,
might decrease the number of court claims, but conflict is likely to be manifested