‘Serious concerns’ over legality of anti-strike bill ignored, say MPs and Lords

As teachers’ union slams "disingenuous and cynical” talks with Education Department today over minimum service levels

Strike Bill

Lords and MPs have written to the government accusing ministers of failing to address “serious concerns” that were raised over the legality of the anti-strike bill.

In a letter to Kemi Badenoch, the Secretary State for Business and Trade, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said the government had failed to address concerns raised about the impact of minimum service levels in international law.  

It comes as the government is now seeking to add teachers to the list of professions which would have their right to strike inhibited by the Minimum Service Levels legislation. With a consolation set to take place after government talks with teachers’ unions failed to conclude an agreement today.

Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the NEU slammed the talks with the Education Department which he said were, in fact, “never meaningful” and instead “disingenuous” and “cynical”.

“Sunak always intended to implement this draconian legislation without consent or mandate,” commenting Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, following the meeting.

“The attempt to impose further restrictions on our democratic freedoms is shameful. This Government wants to be tough on strikes, but not on the causes of strikes,” added Kebede.

The cross bench committee raised concerns about the compatibility of the Strikes Bill with the UK’s obligations under international law, specifically regarding the right to free assembly and association guaranteed by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

“We do not consider that the consultation process that preceded these Regulations being laid was sufficient to meet these concerns,” the letter argued.

“Neither have our concerns about the impact minimum service levels may have on the ability of workers to exercise their Article 11 rights effectively been allayed by the recently laid Regulations.”

The government has been accused of rushing through the legislation, which has faced widespread criticism and is predicted to worsen industrial relations, threaten civil liberties and increase gender discrimination.

Under the law, ministers will have sweeping powers to impose restrictions on strike action for workers in the health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning sector.

The TUC has said one in five workers in Britain are at risk of losing their right to strike under the legislation. TUC leader Paul Nowak highlighted the mounting concern around the bill, and how the government seem uninterested in addressing it.  

“MPs, Lords and employer groups are queuing up to condemn this draconian legislation,” said Nowak.

“But instead of listening to concerns, the Conservatives are ploughing ahead with these spiteful new laws. “These anti-strike laws are a deliberate attempt to restrict the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty. Make no mistake – they are undemocratic, unworkable and likely illegal.”

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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