Trade Union Bill: another calculated attack on workers’ rights

The European Court of Human Rights may have a mandate to intervene against the Conservatives’ anti-strike proposals


The Tories’ Trade Union Bill is an extraordinary attack on the human rights of working people. Only Labour can stop it, but some in the party will fear a confrontation over workers’ rights. It’s vital we don’t let that fear get the better of us.

The Trade Union Bill will make strikes for public sector workers impossible unless 40 per cent of workers eligible to vote favour industrial action and the voter turnout reaches 50 per cent.

In addition, in the unlikely event of a strike, the plans would make it easier for employers to hire agency staff, making industrial action ineffective and making collective rights redundant.

It’s ironic that a Tory government that won only 37 per cent of the vote wishes to implement such a law.

If democracy in the United Kingdom was held to the same standards, no government would be elected. The Conservatives won the most recent election with 37 per cent  of the vote and in 2010 won 36.1 per cent and managed to form government.

Yet the same percentages would not provide a mandate for public sector strikes. This intrinsically flaws the proposal.

As well as its hypocrisy, the proposed law will severely undermine human rights, specifically freedom of association. By limiting public sector strikes, the government will be preventing the universal right to freedom of association, a right closely linked to freedom of expression.

This will compromise the right of a group to take collective action to pursue the interests of its members.

The state is obligated to protect the right to strike and collective bargaining in order to allow for the protection of workers. The right to strike and collective bargaining maintain safe working conditions, fair wages and healthy working hours. These are things that benefit us all.

Labour should always be a broad church, but we should also continue in our tradition of fighting to preserve the protection of workers when they are at their most vulnerable.

Workers’ rights are human rights and this is just another proposal for legislation that is consistent with the Conservative’s anti-human rights agenda. In fact, it is very much linked to the Tories’ attack on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act.

The ECHR protects the rights of workers under freedom of association. In a case a few years ago involving the Turkish government’s ban on public sector strikes, the European Court of Human Rights used the ECHR to declare the law incompatible with Turkey’s human rights obligations.

The European Court of Human Rights may therefore have a mandate to intervene against the Conservatives’ anti-strike proposals. Aware of this, the Conservatives have developed what looks like a deliberate and calculated plan to assault workers’ rights and undermine the ECHR at the same time.

The Labour Party must not be afraid to challenge the Tories’ or appear to be seen too left-wing on the issue of human rights. Regardless of the election defeat or a future policy supporting aspiration, Labour must maintain its position to protect the fundamental human rights of workers in the United Kingdom.

Steven Male is a Campaigns Volunteer with the Labour Campaign for Human Rights

75 Responses to “Trade Union Bill: another calculated attack on workers’ rights”

  1. Selohesra

    What about the rights of the ordinary members of the public not to be inconvenienced by these strikes. If they were a last resort there may be some sympathy but nowadays the annual rail/tube strike or teachers strike is something to be expected. Union members need to claim back their unions from the political agitators before its too late

  2. Jacko

    Your government-union analogy is a poor one.

    1. The country has to have a government of some form, whether you agree with the composition of it or not. The country does not have to have strikes. It’s a basic difference.

    2. One does not chose to join the electorate and pay tax. You just acquire that status through age. It’s therefore reasonable to expect in those circumstances that many of those people have no interest in politics or voting. That’s their choice. However, it is a reasonable expectation that at least half of the people who’ve chosen to join a union and pay for it, vote in a strike ballot that affects all the members. You’re not comparing the same thing.

    3. In the general election there are many parties to vote for. A strike ballot is a simple yes or no choice. So it’s meaningless to compare election winner percentages and strike ballot percentages.
    In fact, the 40% figures still allows a strike to take place even though a majority of voters voted against it. In a two-horse race, I’d call that pretty favourable.

    4. If you want to quote election figures, think about this. 50% of the electorate voted for Tory and UKIP. I’d call that pretty strong right wing support. So forget the idea that most people wanted a left wing government and were cheated. They didn’t, and they weren’t.

  3. Torybushhug

    Greedy state sector entitlement drones are the only people that strike.

  4. stevep

    The Tories:
    Anti-working people.
    Anti-collectivity (except cartels).
    Anti-unions (except NFU).
    Anti true democracy (power in the hands of the people).
    Anti-everything that interferes with greed and the acquisition of wealth and unelected power.

  5. stevep

    Unions are democratic organisations whose members get to choose who represents them.
    They chose leaders best able to stand up to the relentless Tory onslaught on their rights and Employers reneging on negotiated agreements.
    The only political agitators I see are the Tory Trolls infesting this page and Left Foot Forward as a whole.

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