Defending our human rights and equality protections

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2015 National LGBT Conference
18 September 2015

Conference condemns the Tory Government’s sustained attack on the rights of public service unions and workers – rights guaranteed under International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. The undermining of the rights of trade unionists violates civil liberties and human rights including the freedom of association and assembly.

Conference is therefore not surprised but is appalled that the Conservatives are intending to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA) and replace it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’. This, like the Trade Union Bill, is an ideological attack on our rights and freedoms. Workers rights and human rights are inseparable. We had to fight to win them, and now we must fight to defend them.

Conference recognises the important role that the HRA plays in organising, bargaining and negotiating on behalf of trade union members, for example:

Article 8: right to respect for private and family life – has been used successfully to recognise rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people;

Article 11: freedom of assembly and association – this specifically states ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests’. This article has been used successfully in the past by trade unions to expel British National Party members. It also enables us to join peaceful protests and participate in pride marches;

The Tories argue that a British Bill of Rights will ensure that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will no longer be able to overrule judgements made in British courts and will make “the Supreme Court supreme”. However, for LGBT people, it has been necessary to use the ECtHR to win equality including decriminalisation of homosexuality, the right to marry, gender recognition and the right to be treated equally at work.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, told the Daily Mirror that the proposal to scrap the HRA “is the gravest threat to freedom in Britain since the Second World War.” Some rights may be limited and could be overturned such as the right to privacy or family life and appealing to the ECtHR would be lengthy and difficult.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1. Continue to promote understanding and use of human rights as an essential principle in defending the rights of our members and a vital tool for trade unionists and groups facing discrimination to challenge inequality and injustice;

2. Work with appropriate structures of the union, including the self organised groups, General Political Fund and Labour Link, to campaign against the repeal of the HRA;

3. Support Liberty’s campaign to defend the HRA;

4. Publicise information on the relevance of the HRA to trade unions, employment and equality.