THE Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has written to the government to express “serious concerns” about its anti-strike legislation breaching international law. The crossbench committee of MPs and Lords says that the government has failed to allay concerns about the legislation.
The committee also criticises an insufficient consultation process. In the letter they say: “In March 2023 the Joint Committee on Human Rights published a legislative scrutiny report on the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill.
“We raised a number of serious concerns about the compatibility of that Bill with the UK’s obligations under international law, including in particular the right to free assembly and association guaranteed by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). As you will be aware, the ECHR has been made a part of domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998.
“We do not consider that the consultation process that preceded these Regulations being laid was sufficient to meet these concerns. 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 TUC has accused the government of ignoring the concerns of the committee and instead ploughing ahead with the draconian new laws.
The JCHR previously published a report in March, in which it strongly criticised the government’s Strikes Bill “for failing to meet human rights obligations”. The crossbench committee said the reforms were “not justified and need to be reconsidered” – and added that the government failed to provide “sufficient evidence” for introducing the controversial new laws. The report also warned that the new powers being given to ministers are not “proportionate”.
The legislation gives ministers sweeping powers to impose strike restrictions in any service within health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning. NHS Providers recently warned that the legislation could worsen industrial relations, harm patient care and lead to more disruption.
The EHRC also warned that the legislation could see all striking workers in affected sectors lose their unfair dismissal protection, as whole strikes could be deemed illegal.
The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee criticised the Act for giving blanket powers to UK ministers while providing virtually no detail.
The Act has also faced a barrage of criticism from civil liberties organisations, the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, race and gender equalities groups, employment rights lawyers, and politicians around the world.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “MPs, Lords and employer groups are queuing up to condemn this draconian legislation. 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. And crucially they will poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them. That’s why unions will keep fighting this nasty legislation. We won’t stop until it is repealed.”
On ministers consulting on minimum service levels in schools, Nowak added: “The crisis in our public services is of the Conservatives’ own making. But instead of fixing our crumbling schools and sorting out the chronic retention and recruitment crisis across our public services, ministers are threatening teachers and school support staff with the sack for exercising their right to strike.
“It’s plain wrong. This is a desperate government looking to distract from its dire record.”
* Read the full letter from the Joint Committee on Human Rights here.
* Source: Trades Union Congress