MPs and lords blast anti-strikes bill for breaching ‘human rights obligations’

a Unison picket line - representing the Tories new anti-strikes law which the JCHR has intervened in
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The Tories’ anti-strikes bill has drawn significant criticism since its inception. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called it “draconian” and “spiteful” and says the government must ‘junk’ it. Now, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has said that the new anti-strikes laws are “not justified and need to be reconsidered”.

Anti-strikes bill: failing human rights

The new law is officially titled the ‘Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill‘. It would seriously restrict workers’ right to take strike action. Among its critics are European trade unions. They have argued that the legislation would ‘drag the UK further away from democratic norms’. Now, the JCHR, a parliamentary committee made up of MPs and lords, has also slammed the bill “for failing to meet human rights obligations”.

Its report says the government has failed to provide “sufficient evidence” for introducing the bill. The JCHR warns the new powers being given to ministers are not “proportionate”. It also noted that the bill was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, the Tories are trying to pull the UK out of the ECHR.

According to the Mirror, the committee said:

In our view, they may amount to a disproportionate interference with Article 11 [of the ECHR], particularly in circumstances where the strike does not involve essential services and risks to life and limb.

The Government should reconsider whether less severe measures, such as loss of pay or suspension from work for employees who fail to comply with work notices, could be effective.

The JCHR’s intervention comes three days after the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee criticised the anti-strikes bill. The committee slammed the bill for giving blanket powers to ministers – while providing virtually no detail.

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Civil liberties groups have also warned that the bill would allow “a further significant and unjustified intrusion by the state into the freedom of association and assembly”. Among the groups to speak out were Liberty, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam.

The Tories’ ‘draconian’ law

In response to the JCHR report, TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said:

MPs, Lords and civil liberties groups are queuing up to condemn this draconian Bill. These spiteful new laws are an affront to human rights and are a deliberate attempt to restrict the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.

The government is steamrolling through parliament legislation that will give ministers sweeping new powers to sack workers who take action to win better pay and conditions. The Conservatives are trying to keep people in the dark. But make no mistake – this Bill is undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal. And crucially it will likely poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them.

This nasty Bill should be junked immediately.

It’s unlikely that the Tories will pay much attention to the JCHR, given they want to drag the UK out of the ECHR anyway. So, it’s up to trade unions, opposition MPs, and campaigners to continue to oppose this authoritarian piece of legislation.

Featured image via Alarichall – Wikimedia, resized to 770×403 under licence CC BY-SA 4.0

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