~~Leading human rights groups have today (Monday) warned that the 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 said the bill “would hamper people’s basic rights to protest and shift even more power from the employee to the employer.”
The groups accused 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.
The 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.
Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights also hit out atproposals 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, criticised ministers for trying to rush through the Trade Union Bill without proper consultation.
The RPC described the government’s three impact assessments on its proposals as “red – not fit for purpose”.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This 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.”
Statement on Trade Union Bill from Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute for Human Rights:
The government's plans to significantly restrict trade union rights - set out in the Trade Union Bill - represent a major attack on civil liberties in the UK.
By placing more legal hurdles in the way of unions organising strike action, the Trade Union Bill will undermine ordinary people’s ability to organise together to protect their jobs, livelihoods and the quality of their working lives.
It will introduce harsher restrictions on those who picket peacefully outside workplaces - even though pickets are already more regulated than any other kind of protest. Unions will be required to appoint picket supervisors who must wear armbands and carry letters of authorisation, the absence of which could expose their unions to legal action.
Further proposals out for consultation could mean unions are required to provide a protest plan to employers, police, and other State regulators, revealing in advance if they plan to use social media, including Twitter and Facebook during their campaign and what they plan to set out on websites and blogs.
Taken together the unprecedented measures in the Bill would hamper people’s basic rights to protest and shift even more power from the employee to the employer.
It is hard to see the aim of this bill as anything but seeking to undermine the rights of all working people. We owe so many of our employment protections to Trade Unions and we join them in opposing this bill.
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