Committee report finds UK Strikes Bill fails to meet human rights obligations
Scrutiny of the government’s plans to impose minimum service levels on public services during strike action
The Joint Committee on Human Rights published a report on 6 March, on its findings following scrutiny of the UK government’s plans to impose minimum service levels on public services during strike action set out in the Strikes (Minimum Service Level) Bill. The Committee finds that the government’s plans are unlikely to be compatible with human rights law in their current form.
The Joint Committee finds that the government’s Bill in its current form risks failing to meet the benchmarks set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. As such, the Committee has requested that the government reconsider the legislation to ensure that it meets the UK’s human rights obligations. The report sets out five proposed amendments to the Bill that aim to rectify the main concerns outlined by the Committee.
Following its assessment, the Joint Committee is of the view that the government has not made a compelling case that the measures contained within the Bill are necessary and finds that the Bill contains inadequate protections against arbitrary use and contains insufficient clarity in a number of key areas. In addition to this, the Joint Committee states that the Bill as drafted risks failing to meet the relevant proportionality requirements. The report also finds that a number of claims within the Bill have not been backed up by sufficient evidence from the government.
Commenting on the publication of the Committee’s report, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Joanna Cherry KC MP, said: “The Strikes Bill will be debated in the House of Lords this Thursday and needs amending to resolve some of the deep flaws it has. If this proposed legislation becomes law in its current form, ministers would have the power to set minimum service levels that would leave striking workers at risk of the sack if they are not met, and unions liable to million-pound fines. Yet, the Government has not proven that such draconian measures are needed or that the current framework is inadequate. Heavy-handed sanctions are compounded by vague rules that would leave striking workers and unions in confusion as to whether they had been met or not. The sectors included in the Bill are also ill-defined, risking over-reach into areas only tangentially linked to the maintenance of vital public services. This means the Bill, in our view, is likely to be incompatible with human rights law which provides a right to association and with it, protection for strike action. The Government needs to think again and come back with legislation that better respects the protections guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.”