The rights of all workers are under attack – we need a broad civil society coalition to help us protect them

Unions and civil society must unite around a common vision of individual and collective rights that brings together all our aspirations for a good society

The right to strike is a fundamental human right, recognised across the democratic world. It has played a crucial role in helping people at work – whether they are in a union or not – to secure better conditions and lives for themselves and their families.

The new government proposals announced last week to make it harder to strike, to allow employers to employ agency staff during a strike, to introduce new criminal sanctions on picketing, criminalise other dispute-related protests and to introduce new surveillance powers specifically for union activity are all attacks on our basic rights. Social media activity linked to a dispute will also need to be registered in advance.

This is yet another proposal for legislation that is consistent with the Conservative’s anti-human rights agenda. In fact, it is very much linked to the Tories’ attack on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act.

While we, as trade unionists, rightly celebrate human rights and access to justice, our government is busy working on further reforms aimed at shutting down dissent and weakening people’s rights at work.

Already, the Lobbying Act has constricted civil society organisations’ ability to protest and cuts in public services and employment tribunal fees have seen the number of cases bought by workers collapse by close to 80%, something UNISON is already challenging in the courts.

UNISON has been a long time member of both Liberty and Amnesty International and is also a member of the Human Rights Alliance. We hope our allies will rally to help the biggest voluntary movement in the UK, the trade union movement, at its time of need.

Unions and civil society must unite around a common vision of individual and collective rights that brings together all our aspirations for a good society.