The European Social Charter turns 50 today, but Britain doesn't belong at the party

Today is the 50th anniversary of the European Social Charter on workers' rights. The UK government is not celebrating, as it seeks to squeeze employment rights still further to satisfy corporate interests.
Keith Ewing Stuart Weir
18 October 2011

Today is the 50th anniversary of the European Social Charter, which parallels the European Convention on Human Rights but deals with workers’ rights. This is probably news to you, as the UK government is not celebrating. This is a government that is hostile to workers’ rights and wants to diminish them still further in the interests of corporate business. There are few lobbyists for improving the current poor position.  Rather the reverse: the neo-con network has other fish to fry; and it is said that advisers in Downing Street are contemplating resiling from shared maternity/paternity rights.

One measure of the government’s commitment to the welfare of workers and their trade unions is to be found in the latest finding in December 2010 of the expert body set up under the Council of Europe on the UK’s compliance with the terms of the Social Charter. This body found that the UK was in breach of 10 of the 13 provisions of the Charter. We have one of the worst records of compliance in Europe.   

The government’s disdain for the Social Charter needs to be tied in with the deliberations of the current Commission on a Bill of Rights.  If there is to be a British Bill of Rights, then the Commission should recommend that worker and trade union rights should have a prominent place in the Bill, as in the constitutional practice of many Council of Europe countries.  These rights ought at last to include the right to strike. Fat chance, yes.  But if the Occupy movement is going to bring about genuine change, then economic and social rights should be on its agenda.

Who's getting rich from COVID-19?

Boris Johnson's government stands accused of 'COVID cronyism', after handing out staggering sums of money to controversial private firms to fight COVID-19. Often the terms of these deals are kept secret, with no value-for-money checks or penalties for repeated failures which cost lives. And many major contracts have gone directly to key Tory donors and allies – without competition.

As COVID rates across the country surge, how can we hold our leaders accountable? Meet the lawyers, journalists and politicians leading the charge in our free live discussion on Thursday 1 October at 5pm UK time.

Hear from:

Dawn Butler Labour MP for Brent Central and member of the House of Commons Committee on Science and Technology

Peter Geoghegan Investigations editor, openDemocracy, and author of 'Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics'

Jolyon Maugham Barrister and founder of the Good Law Project.

Peter Smith Procurement expert and author of 'Bad Buying: How Organisations Waste Billions through Failures, Frauds and F*ck-ups'

Chair: Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief of openDemocracy

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