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Unite calls for protection of collective human rights at TUC

In a speech delivered at the 148th annual Trades Union Congress, Unite’s director of legal services, Howard Beckett, addresses the importance of human rights in the workplace.

Howard Beckett said: “The principles of collective rights, the protection from enforced slavery, the right of assembly, the right to protest, freedom of speech, the right to belong to a trade union and, yes conference, the right to withdraw labour - the right to strike - are all protected by the Human Rights Act.

“These are rights, conference, so important as to be central to International Law protected by the United Nations, to be integral to the Scotland Act and to be central to the Good Friday Agreement.

“They are rights that tell less democratic countries around the world that we respect International Law, we promote the Human Rights of all.

“Comrades, Nelson Mandela said “to deny people their Human Rights is to deny their very humanity”.

“As the late great Davy Hopper would have said, these wretched Tories have no hesitation in denying us, trade unionists, our essence, our core, our humanity.

“Conference, Unite says no to employers who ask us to repudiate the actions of our members. We are the union who changed our rule book to tell the government if you force us outside the law, we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our members.

“But comrades, my union has always relied upon our rights of protest, our rights of assembly, our rights to freedom of speech. Again and again we have taken the disputes to the back yards of those who seek to demean our members. And we will upon the Human Rights Act to do so.

“Be in no doubt conference, as the Tory rabble fail to deliver to the right wing zealots the Brexit they so desire, the anti-Europe, insular, xenophobic, racist society they seek, they will look to the exit from the Human Rights Act as their succour to the right wing.

“They will seek to remove us from the Human Rights Act and claim that this is sovereignty reclaimed.

“They will offer us a Bill Of Rights premised on the Carr report, one that will have at its very heart how to defeat in the courts the very tactics my union has used with such success.

“Our human rights entrusted to a government hell bent on destroying unions and a compliant judiciary who injunct Alsef for doing no more than tell their members of a failure to agree with the employer.

“No, comrades, these are our human rights, our core, our essence. They deserve to be protected by International Law, not subject to the whims of the ruling elite of government nor the privileged out of touch judiciary. We must be ready to stand with Liberty, Amnesty and others and say “our Human Rights Act is our humanity.”