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Enforcement of recognition

The notion of collective agreements being legally enforceable is a new departure for British law, which has always traditionally regarded such agreements as being binding in honour only between the parties (see Chapter 8). The reason why the Government felt it necessary to give agreements stemming from the statutory recognition procedure contractually binding status was in order to create an enforcement framework in the event that one of the parties failed to observe the method stipulated.90 The enforcement mechanism specified for a failure to observe the terms of a method imposed by the CAC is an application to the court for an order for specific performance.91 Failure to comply with an order for specific performance will be a contempt of court punishable by a fine and, in rare cases, imprisonment. This procedural remedy is not accompanied by a substantive sanction, such as in the form of a claim for improved terms and conditions, as was the case under the Employment Protection Act 1975. It has been argued that this reliance on a procedural model for enforcement may well allow a recalcitrant employer to delay and prevaricate – accepting the form of recognition but denying the substance.