UK anti-strike law could be challenged under European rights law, lawyer says

Laws planned by the UK government to ensure a “minimum level of safety” during strikes could be challenged under European human rights law and international labor treaties, an employment lawyer said. rice field.

The government said Thursday it will introduce legislation to parliament in the coming weeks to ensure essential public services must remain functional and provide a minimum level of safety during industrial action. Stated.

Trade unions are obliged to comply with this law, and failure to do so risks employers seeking injunctions to prevent the strike from being carried out and subsequent claims for damages.

Richard Arthur, head of trade union law at Thompson Solicitors, said there were “very serious legal question marks” in the government’s proposal.

He said the government is referring to a minimum ‘safety level’ and expects legal challenges to what it is and who defines it. “

He added that the new measures are not in compliance with the International Labor Organization’s Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, and the UK’s legal obligations under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

He said legal challenges would not be affected by Brexit.

international precedents

But the government said the proposed measures would bring Britain in line with many countries around the world that already have minimum service agreements, such as France and Spain.

Speaking with the station following Thursday’s announcement, Commerce Secretary Grant Shaps rejected suggestions that the planned new legislation would affect the human rights of union members.

Epoch Times photo
Business Secretary Grant Shaps attends the Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, London, December 20, 2022. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Media)

“First of all, civilized European countries, France, Germany, Italy and Spain all have some form of minimum security level,” he said.

He added that the International Labor Organization has said it has “no problem” with such plans “if it is a matter of life and death.”

“I don’t think the idea that the ambulance may not come because there is a strike is unacceptable.

“We’re not suggesting a complete monopoly. Other countries, the United States, Canada and parts of Australia, have laws that completely prohibit these blue lights from going on strike.

“We are not proposing it. .”

Workers vow to repeal law

The opposition Labor Party opposed the bill and said it would likely withdraw such a bill if it won the next election.

Opposition leader Sir Kiel Sturmer said in a key address on Thursday that he did not believe the legislation would work.

He said he would “do away with it” if the public drove him to Downing Street.

Epoch Times photo
Labor leader Lord Kiel Sturmer speaks during a visit to UCL, Here East, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, 5 January 2023. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Media)

Labor’s shadow finance minister, Pat McFadden, said in an interview with the BBC on Friday that the government was seeking “legislative means” for political reasons.

He said the way to settle labor disputes is to negotiate a deal, and that “even if this law were enacted, it would not affect these current disputes.”

He added: “The way to guarantee good service is to negotiate to resolve disputes. Yes, we will implement necessary reforms and changes in various areas. will do.”

“Short Life”

Employment lawyers predict the bill won’t have lasting impact, even if it does pass Congress.

Tom Long, an employment partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said the proposed bill “could have a relatively short lifespan.”

he said: in the next two years. “

David Hopper, Employment Partner at Law Firm Louis Silkin, said: Introduce a minimum service level.

“Even if it were to become law, it might not be effective without numerous additional regulations, industry agreements, and even court rulings that actually set specific minimum standards.

“Nevertheless, unions can be expected to resist the new requirements and will almost certainly object to any enforcement action against them on human rights grounds.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Chan