When the UK government signed up to a whole host of trade deals with other countries on leaving the EU, it also signed up to commitments in many of them on workersâ€™ rights and the environment.
A number of these deals also required the UK and our trading partners to establish independent bodies â€“ called Domestic Advisory Groups (or DAGs) – to monitor whether these commitments were being upheld.
Last year the UK Domestic Advisory Group was set up. Trade unions represented by the TUC, employers and civil society groups were selected to sit on it.
Despite its commitments to respect workersâ€™ rights, the government has published, and parliament has enacted, the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023. This could see workers in the transport, health, education, nuclear waste, fire and rescue and border security sectors ordered to attend work even if workers democratically vote to strike.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO)Â has warned the UK that it must ensure legislation adhered to ILO conventions.
In response, the TUC has used the Domestic Advisory Groups to hold the government to account, as well as hold governments in partner countries to respecting fundamental workersâ€™ rights â€“ working with sister trade unions across the world.
Japan Civil Society Forum
In February the UK Domestic Advisory Group met with the UK and Japanese governments and Japanese civil society groups.
The TUC joined with Japanese trade unions to raise concerns that the Act violated the governmentâ€™s commitment to freedom of association that is in the UK-Japan trade agreement.
The TUC and Japanese unions also highlighted concerns that the Japanese government has not ratified all ILO fundamental conventions which is required by the UK-Japan agreement.
Colombia, Peru and Ecuador Civil Society Forum
In July, the TUC joined with trade unions from Peru and Ecuador in condemning repression of trade unions in these countries which violates commitments to ILO conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining in the UK-Andean trade agreement.
The TUC also highlighted that the UK government was also failing to uphold its commitment to freedom of association in the agreement through the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act.
Vietnam Civil Society Forum
In August the UK Domestic Advisory Group met with the UK and Vietnamese governments as well as Vietnamese civil society representatives.
The TUC raised serious concerns at this meeting that independent trade unions are banned in Vietnam, violating commitments in the UK-Vietnam trade agreement to comply with the ILO convention on freedom of association.
The TUC also raised concerns with the UK government that it was not upholding its commitment to freedom of association in the agreement as it has passed the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act.
Time for governments to respond â€“ and act
Now the TUC and our sister trade unions have raised these concerns it is crucial that governments in the UK and other countries act on them and stop attacks on workersâ€™ rights and trade unions.
We will not stop raising these concerns through Domestic Advisory Groups and campaigning until they do.
Trade unions are clear â€“ commitments to workersâ€™ rights cannot just be on paper.
They must be enforced to stop trade driving a race to the bottom on rights and jobs.