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. stevep

    Tory SunMail reader reply. Brainwashed drone.

  2. stevep

    Well Said.

  3. Faerieson

    Are you capable of independent thought?

  4. Nick

    The bottom line is if someones on strike the chances are they being abused at SOME level within the company they work for

    abuse takes many forms from verbal by management threats of various kinds lack of safety/lack of work breaks / working to many hours 14 hours per day or more and so on

    I have never known anyone go on strike or even think it working for a genuine company and i don’t think i ever will

  5. Dave Stewart

    You don’t have a right not to be inconvenienced.

    I think the latest network rail potential strike clearly demonstrates who is at fault in regards to causing strikes.

    They gave a pretty appalling offer and refused to negotiate any further saying it was the best they could afford. As soon as the threat of a strike became realistic suddenly there was a better deal to be had. This second offer was still pretty poor and was rejected by workers and then low and behold a third final best we can do materializes.

    Lets ask ourselves who is playing silly games in that situation and who are causing the threat of massive disruption to the public at large? Is it the workers who have suffered years of below inflation pay rises (otherwise known as a real terms pay cut) trying to get a half decent deal or is it the management of network rail who consistently try to low ball the workers rather than just give a half decent offer in the first place thus forcing them to call strike action on multiple occasions relating to the multiple “final best offers”.

    People need to get a grip when it comes to public sector strikes. The public sector typically has better terms and conditions because it has strong(ish) unions fighting for the workers. Those in the private sector who dislike being inconvenienced and think it unfair that the public sector has better pensions etc my suggestion is this:

    rather than decry the public sector and all the “perks” it has and calling for those “perks” to be removed so that public sector employees are just as put upon as private sector employees why don’t you unionise and fight for your own rights? That way you won’t be calling for others lives to be made harder but instead you’d be fighting to improve the lives of yourself and your colleagues. On top of this you would almost certainly have the support of those public sector unions in your struggles. Just a thought.

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