30 January 2014
The Tory government wants to establish a clear legal precedent so that the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights only has a minimal role in British courts.
The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has declared that the UK has “enough” human rights legislation and that he does not want to see the European Union become a main point of reference for human rights in the UK.
His view counters that of trade unions, which often appeal to international laws on human rights to ensure that workers are protected and treated fairly in the workplace. The Human Rights Act, which enshrines some rights in UK law, is much weaker than international laws and does not include basic freedoms that are commonplace in other large European economies such as the right to strike. UK law is also less protective of the “right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”, which includes the right to join a trade union and pursue trade union activities.
Grayling’s move comes after a case in which the EU Charter trumped UK law. Grayling believes this is part of a ‘mission creep’ through which the Charter and Lisbon Treaty will become ‘reference points’ for those who are arguing in favour of further EU integration.
Grayling also disagreed on a request made earlier in the week by Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, who said that the UK should reconsider the voting rights of British expatriates, He believes this could raise the chance that the Charter of Fundamental Rights could force a change in UK law.
However, it is clear that there is a certain incompatibility between the law in the UK and human right, as shown in a case where the Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union (PDA) were invited by the High Court to declare the incompatibility between both after the union was refused recognition by Boots Management Services.
The employer in this case, made a very minimal collective agreement with another union. This union did not cover pay of conditions. However due to the fact that the firm had recognised a union, the UK law meant that there was no requirement for it to recognise the PDA.
What this case shows is that if the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights continues to have a minimal effect in British courts, many human rights, and trade union rights will be cut or even allowed to completely disappear. As a result[,] the IER is opposed to this request made by the Tory government, because it will affect workers rights that are currently better protected by EU law.