The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released the 2023 Global Rights Index, focusing on the state of workers’ rights across the globe. In the most recent report, the United Kingdom has done worse in the index compared to last year’s numbers due to several occurrences that violated workers’ rights in the past year, including the push for legislation to limit the right to strike.
The 2023 index becomes the 10th annual Global Rights Index done by ITUC, which has involved high-income and low-income countries. “Our democracies are under attack,” was stated in the report in response to their findings of 9 out of 10 countries violated the right to strike and 8 out of 10 countries violated the right of collective bargaining. Seeing as the UK has gone backwards in upholding workers’ rights, this has become a cause for concern for employment in the nation.
2023 Global Rights Index
The first mention of the UK in the index noted that the 2023 ratings have worsened. They explained this due to the violations of workers’ rights seen in the country and noted the push for anti-strike laws in parliament.
They described these violations have contributed to a systematic issue that the UK is now experiencing. Union busting, attempts to introduce laws to restrict the right to strike and protest, and violations of collective bargaining agreements are all listed as reasons why the rating for the UK has worsened compared to last year.
Royal Mail is listed within the index as one of the companies around the globe that has been found to violate workers’ rights, linked to a violation of workers’ rights or failed to use their leverage to address workers’ rights violations.
Thus, the United Kingdom was given a rating of 4 with the description of “systematic violations of rights”. Further, the country is also mentioned as one of the countries doing the worst within the European continent.
Rushing the Strikes Bill
On a further note, the ITUC highlighted the UK Government’s push for new legislation in response to ongoing disputes in the railway and NHS sectors. The proposed legislation, presented to parliament on 10 January 2023, seeks to enforce Minimum Service Levels on various essential sectors, including transport, healthcare, border force, education, nuclear decommissioning and storage, and fire and rescue.
According to the proposed laws, workers who are required to cross picket lines to maintain minimum services would lose their legal protection against unfair dismissal if they continue to participate in strike actions. Trade unions could also be held liable for damages if they fail to ensure compliance with work notices.
What is concerning is the lack of consultation with trade unions prior to the introduction of this legislation. Furthermore, there is limited opportunity to thoroughly scrutinize or influence the proposed laws, as they are being expedited through Parliament on an accelerated schedule.
This draft legislation represents yet another blow to the fundamental right to strike for workers in the UK, which is already operating within a draconian legislative environment for trade unions. Existing anti-union laws in Britain require a two-week notice period before the commencement of a strike, as well as an excessively high majority of union members to support strike action. Moreover, in July 2022, a change in the law permitted the recruitment of agency labour to undermine strikes, a practice that was previously illegal.