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TUC welcomes civil liberties’ groups condemnation of ministers’ attack on the right to strike

  • 50 leading civil liberties organisations and rights groups including Liberty, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam slam the government’s strikes bill

The TUC has today (Monday) welcomed an open letter penned by 50 civil liberties organisations and rights groups slamming the government’s new anti-strikes bill as an attack on the fundamental right to strike.

The organisations including Liberty, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and many more said the Bill will allow “a further significant and unjustified intrusion by the state into the freedom of association and assembly.”

The groups also warn of the “enormous scope” the legislation would give ministers to decide key provisions, including the minimum service levels, without proper parliamentary scrutiny. 

The Bill is back in parliament today for its third reading.

The TUC has launched a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to discover why the government published the Bill without a required impact assessment. 

Previous government advice – published in the Autumn – warned that minimum service levels in transport could poison industrial relations, and lead to more frequent industrial action.  

Despite this warning, the Conservatives are now proposing to extend minimum service levels to a range of other sectors including - health, education, fire, border security and nuclear decommissioning.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: 

"Ministers are launching a brazen attack on the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.

“This draconian legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.  

“It is little wonder that civil liberties organisations up and down the country are lining up to condemn this spiteful Bill.

“It is undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal. And crucially it will likely poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them.”

On the need for ministers to come clean about the true scope of the Bill, Nowak added:

“Instead of levelling with the public about the bill’s draconian nature, ministers are railroading it through without proper scrutiny or consultation. 

“With inflation running at over 10%, the last thing working people need is for ministers to make it harder to secure better pay and conditions.

“It is shameful that parliamentarians are being forced to vote blindly on such far-reaching new laws. We urge MPs from all parties to vote against this nasty Bill.”

Editors note

Letter in full – also found on the Liberty website

Dear Secretary of State, 

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill 

We are writing to you as organisations concerned with the protection of civil liberties in this country to urge you to reconsider the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. 

The right to strike is a fundamental liberty. 

In Great Britain it is already highly constrained by detailed rules concerning balloting, notice periods and picketing. 

We believe the proposals for minimum service levels during industrial action will unfairly constrain the activities of trade unions and their members by allowing a further significant and unjustified intrusion by the state into the freedom of association and assembly. 

The government has produced no evidence that such draconian measures are necessary. Voluntary life-and-limb cover has long been a feature of industrial action by essential workers.

This Bill has the potential to cause significant damage to fair and effective industrial relations in this country by making it harder to resolve disputes. Indeed the government itself has acknowledged that minimum service levels risk leading to an increased frequency of strikes. 

We are also concerned by the lack of detail in the Bill, and the enormous scope it gives you and your successors as Secretary of State to decide key provisions, including the minimum service levels themselves, free from proper Parliamentary scrutiny. 

In particular, the vast power given to Ministers to amend or revoke primary legislation, including Acts that do not even exist yet, is an extraordinary denial of the duty of our elected representatives to legislate on our behalf. 

The Bill will expand the power of Ministers over Parliament and employers over workers, undermine rights protections, and inject uncertainty and precarity into the lives of millions of people who may now face dismissal for going on strike. 

We urge you to reconsider these plans for an unwarranted curtailment of freedom of assembly and association

Martha Spurrier, Director, Liberty 

Justine Forster, CEO, Advocacy Focus 

Robert Rae, Co-Director, Art27 Scotland 

Clive Parry, England Director, Association for Real Change

D ame Sara Llewellin, Chief Executive, Barrow Cadbury Trust 

Silkie Carlo, Director, Big Brother Watch

Rosalind Stevens, Project Manager, Civil Society Alliance 

Brian Gormally, Director, Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) 

Isobel Ingham-Barrow, CEO, Community Policy Forum 

Megan Thomas, Policy and Research Officer, Disability Wales

Ele Hicks, Engagement, Research, and Policy and Influencing Manager, Diverse Cymru

Andrea Simon, Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition 

Clare Moody, Co-CEO, Equally Ours

Kyle Taylor, Founder, Fair Vote UK 

Peter Wieltschnig, Policy & Networks Officer, Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) 

Clare Lyons, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) 

Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now 

John Gaskell, Chair, Grassroots for Europe 

Areeba Hamid & Will McCallum, Co-Executive Directors, Greenpeace UK

Declan Owens, Co-Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers 

Kevin Hanratty, Director, Human Rights Consortium Northern Ireland

Mhairi Snowden, Director, Human Rights Consortium Scotland 

Yasmine Ahmed, UK Director, Human Rights Watch 

Deborah Coles, Executive Director, INQUEST 

Zehrah Hasan, Advocacy Director, The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)

Jess McQuail, Director, Just Fair 

Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, Head of Policy and Profile, Law Centres Network 

Barry Gale, Group Leader, Mental Health Rights Scotland 

Fizza Qureshi, CEO, Migrants' Rights Network 

Zara Mohammed, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain 

Kevin Blowe, Campaigns Coordinator, Netpol 

Mark Kieran, CEO, Open Britain

Kate Flannery, Secretary, Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign 

Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive, Oxfam GB 

Becky Peters, Director (Interim), People's History Museum, Manchester Police Spies Out Of Lives

Lubia Begum-Rob, Director, Prisoners' Advice Service 

Ariane Adam, Legal Director, Public Law Project 

Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, René Cassin, the Jewish Voice for Human Rights

Agnes Tolmie, Chair, The Scottish Women's Convention 

Sue Tibballs, Chief Executive, Sheila McKechnie Foundation 

Susan Cueva, Chair, Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC) 

Chris Jones, Director, Statewatch 

Louise Hazan, Co-Founder, Tipping Point UK 

Chris Brian, Researcher, Undercover Research Group 

Katrina Ffrench, Director, UNJUST C.I.C 

Tom Brake, Director, Unlock Democracy 

Bob Miller, Secretary, Wearside Amnesty International 

Joyce Kallevik, Director, Wish 

Raewyn Jones, Interim CEO, Work Rights Centre

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

Original article link: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/tuc-welcomes-civil-liberties-groups-condemnation-ministers-attack-right-strike

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