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Tuesday 8th
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

Social media monitoring will severely hamper the right to protest

HUMAN RIGHTS groups condemned the government’s crackdown on trade unions yesterday as “a major attack on civil liberties.”

The forthcoming Trade Union Bill has gained most publicity for its placement of arbitrary thresholds on strike ballots — but Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights all said it will also have major implications for surveillance.

In a joint statement the groups said the Bill “would hamper people’s basic rights to protest and shift even more power from the employee to the employer.”

The charities raised fears over the monitoring of social media, after the government said it would consult on making unions submit Facebook and Twitter posts to bosses and coppers two weeks in advance of strike dates and make reps wear armbands or badges to identify themselves.

If reps breach this rule they could be hit with fines of up to £20,000 for each failure to comply.

“It is hard to see the aim of this Bill as anything but seeking to undermine the rights of all working people,” the campaign groups said. “We owe so many of our employment protections to trade unions and we join them in opposing this Bill.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is a welcome and significant intervention. The Trade Union Bill threatens the basic right to strike — a fundamental British liberty.

“Instead of trying to ram the Bill through parliament without proper scrutiny and consultation, ministers need to take a step back, recognise that they were wrong, and drop these proposals.

“The government’s excessive new restrictions on peaceful picketing and protests and unions’ use of Facebook and Twitter have no place in a modern democracy.

“Ministers should be working with unions to deliver a fairer Britain, not dreaming up new ways of stopping their members from defending jobs and pay and standing up for decent services and safety at work.”

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan has said the new legislation “smacks of Germany in the 1930s when trade union leaders and activists were rounded up and imprisoned and, in some cases, executed.”

The trade union Bill will be debated next Tuesday at TUC Congress in Brighton.