UK Bill of Rights should enhance current protection
Labour & European Law Review Weekly Issue 289 04 October 2012
In its response to the government’s second consultation on a UK Bill of Rights, Thompsons has argued that a new UK bill should add to current protections, not detract from them.
Pointing out that having a Bill of Rights would not give the UK a wider margin of appreciation by the European Court of Human Rights, it says that the UK would still be bound by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the decisions of the European Court.
Thompsons argues throughout its response to the consultation that a UK Bill should extend the range of human rights in the UK, such as the protection of socio-economic rights, the rights of the child, a free-standing and over-arching right to equality and collective labour laws.
As article 11 of the Convention currently fails to acknowledge the foundation of rights to conduct collective bargaining and to take collective action, Thompsons says that current UK legislation fails to recognise, and have due regard to, international collective labour rights obligations.
It points out that the UK has been criticised by the International Labour Organisation’s Committee of Experts for classifying industrial action as a breach of the contract of employment; for a lack of adequate protection for workers dismissed while taking part in industrial action; for an outright ban on secondary action; and for the circumstances of a trade dispute.
And in 2010, the European Committee of Social Rights concluded that UK collective labour laws infringed Article 6 of the European Social Charter (the right to bargain collectively).
For example, workers do not currently have the right to bring legal proceedings against employers who make offers to co-workers in order to induce them to surrender their union rights and, in those types of cases, trade unions cannot complain of a violation of the right to collective bargaining.
In addition, the UK’s laws in relation to industrial action do not conform with Article 6(4) of the European Charter because the scope for workers to defend their interests through lawful collective action is excessively circumscribed, the requirement to give notice of an industrial action ballot (in addition to a strike notice) is excessive and the protection of workers against dismissal is insufficient.
Finally, it says that the government should also ratify the 1995 Protocol to the Charter permitting collective complaints.