Draconian anti-strike bill breaches human rights

The UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has been carrying out an inquiry into Human Rights at Work, looking at the extent to which human rights are protected and respected in the workplace.

Community believes that a piece of legislation currently going through parliament is a draconian and dangerous measure that threatens to undermine human rights.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is designed to prevent people exercising the right to strike. It would allow employers to serve ‘work notices’ on trade unions organising industrial action in relevant services where the government has set minimum service levels, including:

  • health;
  • fire and rescue;
  • education;
  • transport;
  • the nuclear industry; and
  • border security.

The work notice would identify the employees required to work, and what work would need to be performed during the strike in order to meet the minimum service level. Unions risk being sued if they don’t take “all reasonable steps” to ensure their members identified in the work notice comply and attend work, when they would otherwise have been taking industrial action.

The Committee has found that the Strikes Bill is incompatible with human rights. If the law is enacted, workers could be sacked for taking strike action that has been agreed in a democratic ballot, if they do not comply with the ‘work notices’. Reps could be forced to break the strikes they have organised, and unions could be forced to pay big fines.

This Bill particularly affects public sector and transport workers, and we stand with our sister unions in opposing it.

We have submitted evidence to the Human Rights Committee’s legislative scrutiny of the bill and to its wider human rights inquiry,  arguing that the government’s approach has sought to prevent people from exercising their human rights.

Wider concerns

In our evidence, we also highlight our concerns about wider issues of surveillance at work, privacy and labour market exploitation.

We are seeing increasing levels of worker surveillance. This includes surveillance of computer usage, location, productivity, and performance, increasingly feeding into algorithmic management systems. Huge quantities of data are collected about workers, including detailed personal and sensitive personal data.

We are particularly concerned about the impact of these technologies on the right to a private and family life, in terms of blurring the lines between work and life. We have consequently supported the “right to disconnect”, a campaign about ensuring that surveillance and other work technologies do not affect workers private lives.

We have also raised concerns about the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform Bill), which could further threaten workers’ rights. A belated U-turn means the government has listed the laws it intends to revoke. There appears to be little relevant employment rights legislation on the list for deletion. But the Bill still gives considerable powers to ministers to revoke or change EU-derived legislation.

Take action!

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Find out more

Community will continue to fight for the workers’ rights and protections we value so dearly.

You can find out more about our political work here.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at help@community-tu.org or on 0800 389 6332.

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