Employment Rights

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2005 National Delegate Conference
8 June 2005

Conference reaffirms its belief that decent employment and trade union rights for all is one of the foundation stones of a just and civilised society.

Conference welcomes the improvements in the law brought about by the Employment Relations Act, such as additional protections to prevent employers from engaging in union-busting activities, and new measures to make it easier for trade unions to exclude and expel far right activists in breach of union rules. Conference also welcomes the further commitments to strengthen workers’ rights made by the government as part of the Warwick agreement

However, Conference considers that these changes fail to go far enough, leaving intact many of the anti-trade union laws introduced in the 1980s, and providing employees with inadequate protection against unfair and unscrupulous employers. In particular, Conference condemns as unacceptable the government’s refusal to take heed of the many calls to remove the unjustified restrictions on the ability to take industrial action .Trade unions organising industrial action continue to be subject to a raft of complex and onerous rules, non-compliance with which can result in the award of an injunction or damages to the employer.

Conference notes that in November 2004, the UK’s Joint Committee on Human Rights examined evidence submitted by the Institute of Employment Rights (IER), including supporting evidence from UNISON, TGWU, CWU and RMT, and concluded that “We consider that the government should take seriously the successive findings of the authoritative international bodies overseeing treaties to which the UK has become party and should review the existing law in the light of them”.

Conference also notes with concern the growing casualisation of the workforce, with workers increasingly having to take jobs that offer no job security and provide them with little protection in terms of employment rights. In particular, Conference condemns the continued exploitation of agency workers in the contracted out public services, many of who are paid less than the permanently employed staff they work alongside.

Conference reaffirms the need to bring United Kingdom (UK) laws on employment rights into line with international standards as identified by the supervisory bodies overseeing ILO conventions 87 and 98, the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights of 1966 and the European social charter of 1961.

In order to progress the demand for UK laws based on international standards the National Executive Council should ensure that:

1)a full audit of UK law be undertaken to identify the areas of UK law in need of urgent reform;

2)support be given to a campaign of education and awareness-raising to ensure that UNISON members are aware of the extent to which the laws affecting them fall below what is expected by the international supervisory bodies; and

3)an annual TUC/IER event be organised to critically examine and monitor progress toward bringing UK law in line with international standards.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to campaign for the government to:

a)take urgent action to amend UK law to introduce a legal right to strike;

b)extend the right to claim unfair dismissal and other employment rights to all workers from day one of their employment;

c)extend the right to statutory trade union recognition to cover all workplaces, regardless of the number of workers employed;

d)support the adoption of the European Union Agency Workers’ Directive that gives agency workers the right to be paid the same as their directly employed colleagues from day one of their assignment in a workplace.