Eleven trade unions have now launched legal action against the government over plans to make it possible to replace striking workers with agency staff. The unions previously wrote to then Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng outlining their concerns, giving him 14 days to respond prior to a judicial claim being filed. Now the TUC is co-ordinating legal action by the ASLEF, BFAWU, FDA, GMB, NEU, NUJ, POA, PCS, RMT, Unite and Usdaw trade unions.
The unions come from a wide range of sectors and represent millions of workers in the UK. They argue that the regulations are unlawful because:
- The then Secretary of State for business failed to consult unions, as required by the Employment Agencies Act 1973.
- They violate fundamental trade union rights protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The unions have already reported the UK government to the United Nations for breaching international law.
The TUC has warned these new laws will worsen industrial disputes, undermine the fundamental right to strike and could endanger public safety if agency staff are required to fill safety critical roles but haven’t been fully trained.
Richard Arthur, head of trade union law at Thompsons Solicitors LLP, which is representing the unions, said: “The right to strike is respected and protected by international law including the Conventions of the ILO, an agency of the United Nations, and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Conservative government should face up to its legal obligations under both domestic and international law, instead of forever trying to undermine the internationally recognised right to strike.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Ministers failed to consult with unions, as the law requires. And restricting the freedom to strike is a breach of international law. That’s why unions are coming together to challenge this change in the courts. Workers need stronger legal protections and more power in the workplace to defend their living standards – not less.”