Every worker wanting to join a strike picket could be forced to identify themselves to police, carry a letter of authorisation and wear an armband, under proposed reforms to trade union laws that could be in breach of international agreements, human rights groups have warned.The Government’s plans for new legal hurdles making it harder for union members to take strike action are described as a “major attack” on civil liberties in the UK, in a joint statement by Liberty, Amnesty UK and the British Institute of Human Rights.
Accusing the Government of “seeking to undermine the rights of all working people,” they claim the measures will discourage ordinary people from coming together to protect their jobs, surrendering more power to employers, and weakening the quality of their working lives.
The Trade Union Bill has already come in for heavy criticism after the Government published its plans without conducting an impact assessment. Campaigners are stepping up their efforts against it as public consultation closes on 9 September.
Among the measures most concerning to the civil liberty groups are plans to extend strict new requirements on picketing supervisors to everyone present at a strike protest.
The original plans set out in the Trade Union Bill would have required only a picketing supervisor to hand over his name and contact details to police, to wear an armband, and to carry a letter of authorisation issued by the union.
But the Government’s consultation raises the prospect of going even further and requiring all those present at a picket having to do the same. Liberty has described it as “authoritarian” and would discourage workers from joining pickets in fear of being blacklisted by employers and police.
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