Human Rights, Worker Rights and the EU

In my previous post I noted a few things about the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. In this post I am going to talk a bit about what was left out of the European Convention and also the reason for some of the anti-EU sentiment in some political parties.

The European Convention Human Rights1 is based on the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights2.

Many of ‘The Articles’  in the Universal Human Rights and the European Human Rights are very similar, however the ‘Universal Declaration’ contains some articles that the European Convention does not:

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

So many of the articles in the ‘universal declaration’ about social rights are left out of the European Declaration. I would imagine that the David Cameron et al. would be even less enamoured with the declaration if these articles were included.

However, some of the rights mentioned are now being enacted by the European Union – for example the Working Time Directive.

If we look at the Conservative Party Manifesto3 we can see that one of the main things that the Conservatives want to do within the European Union is to scrap the working time directive. Workers in the UK should have ‘the right’ to work more than 48 hours per week and have ‘the right’ to have a reduced number of holidays. Despite the fact that the UK already have some of the longest working hours in Europe4.

The Conservatives and UKIP will talk about ‘democracy’ and ‘sovereignty’. However, if these were really issues that concerned them then they should be up in arms about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership5. Our democracy and sovereignty is being rapidly destroyed by increased powers of corporations6.

This post is not supporting or attacking the European Union. However, it is important to realise that anti-EU rhetoric from the Conservatives and UKIP is based on the perceived threat to company profits and the support of workers rights.


1 European Convention on Human Rights (

2 The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, United Nations (

3 Conservative party European Election Manifesto 2014, (

4 Who works the longest hours in Europe?, The Guardian, December 2011 (

5 This transatlantic trade deal is a full-frontal assault on democracy, George Monbiot, The Guardian, 4 November 2013 (

6 A mining company’s $300 million attack on El Salvador’s water, Ecologist, 5th October 2014 (


One Response to “Human Rights, Worker Rights and the EU”

  • Colette Merkelt says:

    I am extremely concerned about what is happening in UK with regard to employment, deskilling of jobs and the penalties imposed on people to survive a declining employment market without working for a pittance. Therefore your comments on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights regarding employment seens to have little creedence as they do not seem to be applied in this country (UK); neither does Article 4.

    No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

    What is Community Work Placement in the UK if it is not slavery??

    What’s your view?


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