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Data: A New Direction

Consultation response
Report type
Consultation response
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Trade unions play a key role in ensuring that the rights and interests of working people are represented and recognised. For example, we advocate the importance of strong collective bargaining rights, appropriate regulation and enforcement to ensure the protection of employment rights, as well as equality of treatment for all, regardless of factors such as race, religion, age, gender, disability, sexuality and access to financial resources.

Whilst we support the “pro-growth” approach outlined in this consultation in so far as this results in more and better jobs, we do not believe that this should be to the detriment of the fundamental rights of individuals in the workplace. Indeed, growth and productivity is dependent on there being a strong framework in place to protect the rights of workers and ensure good quality and rewarding work.

Neither do we believe that jeopardising the EU data adequacy statement will in any way assist with a “pro-growth” agenda. 

Given the aims and purpose of the TUC, we respond only to the questions in this consultation within our direct sphere of work. However, by way of introduction to our consultation response, we believe it is important to highlight the significance of fundamental rights and the protection of personal data, both at work and in society as a whole.

Article 1 of the UK GDPR emphasises the critical importance of data protection rights in the UK. It states that the purpose of the regulation is to protect “fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons and in particular their right to the protection of personal data”. 

This is of particular relevance in the workplace, where there is often a significant imbalance of power between worker and employer. This is reflected in the degree of knowledge and control exercised over personal data at work. 

However, the importance of these protections for personal data also applies across many aspects of our society. For example, the imbalance of power over data is relevant in a consumer-commercial context, as much as in a worker-employer context.

Protection of personal data has important implications for the individual. For example, in relation to the right to privacy, transparency and accountability, equality, the ability to understand and challenge decisions, and the ability to realise the commercial power of data.

Existing data protection legislation in the UK is not perfect. But the UK GDPR provides important protections for individuals, as well as some mechanisms to redress in part the imbalance of power over data at work and elsewhere.

For example, the right to make a data subject access request without charge, and the application of data protection impact assessments, help to offset the imbalance of power at work.

For these reasons, and as outlined in further detail in this consultation response, we are strongly opposed in principle to any dilution or removal of existing rights of data subjects under the UK GDPR.

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