Tory trade union bill is an assault on civil liberties

Trade unions cropped

​Tory trade union plans are a "declaration of war" on the movement

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15th September 2015 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Leading human rights groups have warned that the Tories’ proposed trade union bill is “a major attack on civil liberties in the UK”.

In a joint statement Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) said the legislation “would hamper people’s basic rights to protest and shift even more power from the employee to the employer.”

The groups accused Tory ministers of deliberately trying to put more legal hurdles in the way of unions organising strike action and said the bill would undermine workers’ ability to organise together to protect jobs and livelihoods.

Civil liberties groups expressed particular concerns over new plans for restricting picketing and monitoring the use of social media during strikes.

The government is consulting on making it compulsory for unions to submit what they are planning to write on Facebook, Twitter and on blogs during a strike two weeks in advance to employers, the police and regulators.

If unions breach this rule they could be hit with fines of up to £20,000 for each failure to comply.

The government’s excessive new restrictions have no place in a modern democracy

Liberty, Amnesty International and the BIHR also hit out at proposals to make unions appoint picket line supervisors who must wear armbands and carry letters of authorisation at all times, which they must present to anyone who asks to see them. If unions fail to meet any of these checks they could be taken to court

Today’s warning comes just a fortnight after the government’s red tape watchdog, the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), criticised ministers for trying to rush through the trade union bill without proper consultation.

New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed his party will oppose the bill, as have the 56 strong Westminster SNP group.

However, despite this, the proposed legislation passed its first parliamentary test on Monday.

Delegates to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) this week voted to authorise a day of action by unions on the issue, while delegates called it a “declaration of war” on the movement.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The stance of civil liberties groups is a welcome and significant intervention. The trade union bill threatens the basic right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.

“Instead of trying to ram the bill through parliament without proper scrutiny and consultation, ministers need to take a step back, recognise that they were wrong, and drop these proposals.

“The government’s excessive new restrictions on peaceful picketing and protests and unions’ use of Facebook and Twitter have no place in a modern democracy.

“Ministers should be working with unions to deliver a fairer Britain, not dreaming up new ways of stopping their members from defending jobs and pay and standing up for decent services and safety at work.”