Ministers in ‘severe’ breach of workers’ rights standards

THE government is riding roughshod over workers’ rights in breach of an international treaty Britain signed more than 50 years ago.

The European Committee on Social Rights found the government guilty yesterday of 10 “severe” breaches of the rights of working people — including limits on the right to take industrial action and failing to ensure workers are paid enough to live on — between 2009 and 2012.

Britain signed the Council of Europe’s European Social Charter, an agreement on human rights and other issues involving 47 European states and unrelated to the EU, in 1961.

The committee said the possibilities for workers to defend their interests through lawful collective action were excessively limited, the strike notice period was excessive and protection against dismissal for taking industrial action was insufficient — all breaches of Britain’s commitment.

The government was also accused of “unjustified incursions into the autonomy of trade unions,” and the watchdog decided that “the minimum wage applicable to workers in the private sector does not secure a decent standard of living.”

Institute of Employment Rights director Carolyn Jones said: “This is an outrage and helps to explain why UK workers feel so overworked, under-paid and exploited. Once again the UK has shown itself to be a serial law-breaker at the international court of law.

“The committee roundly criticises the UK for failing to comply with collective rights to organise, to negotiate and to take industrial action. It also condemns the UK’s framework of individual rights to decent pay, public holidays, health and safety protections and termination of notice.

“The incoming government needs to address these criticisms and ensure that the UK’s framework of labour law is fit for purpose in the 21st century, meets our international obligations and better protects hard-working families.”

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