21:49 GMT +323 June 2017
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    Fears Grow for Britain's Human Rights Record as Watchdog Staff Walk Out

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    Staff at the UK human rights watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission are beginning a series of rolling strikes after its budget was slashed by 70 percent, with 25 percent more cuts coming in the next four years, amid growing fears over Britain's human rights record.

    Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory non-departmental public body established by the Equality Act 2006 whose remit is to challenge discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and protect human rights. It has been awarded 'A' status rating as a National Human Rights Institution by the United Nations.

    However, the watchdog's budget has been slashed since 2010, down from US$80 million in 2010 to a projected US$22 million by 2020. According to the unions PCS and Unite, the commission, February 9, 2017, sacked eight staff by email whilst they were on strike in a dispute over budgets and job cuts.

    ​PCS and Unite immediately launched a campaign to lobby for the reinstatement of the sacked staff and for their redeployment into one of over 40 vacancies in the Commission. Walkout have already been staged in Glasgow, with rolling strikes planned for London, Cardiff and Manchester in the coming weeks.

    ​United Nations Review of UK

    The news of the rights watchdog's demise comes just weeks after the United Nations itself announced a review of the UK's human rights record following the UK's decision to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a new British bill of rights and the country's decision to implement the Snoopers' Charter.

    The UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group met for the third time on May 4, 2017, with a packed agenda including: "the proposal to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a new British bill of rights and the realization of rights enjoyed through EU instruments post-Brexit; the impact of existing counter-terrorism measures; discrimination against minority ethnic communities and preventing racial profiling."

    ​Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May drove through parliament the Investigatory Powers Act — aka the Snoopers' Charter — which became law, November 2016, despite critics saying that it still allows for virtually uninhibited mass surveillance by intelligence agencies.

    The act allows or the controlled and supervised interception of all data communications — email, telephone, internet browser and social media usage — by communications companies and their retention for investigation by the police, MI5, MI6, GCHQ and many other government agencies.

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    Tags:
    Snoopers' Charter, strike, human rights, UK Parliament, United Nations, Theresa May, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, United Kingdom, London
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