MPs Must Not Overturn Ban On Agency Workers Replacing Those On Strike

The TUC has called on ministers to make a “clear commitment” they will not overturn the renewed ban on agency workers replacing those on strike.

The call comes as the government’s strike-breaking agency worker regulations, which allowed agencies to supply employers with workers to fill in for those on strike, are quashed after the High Court ruled they were unlawful.

Last month, the High Court ruled that the then Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, failed to consult unions, as required by the Employment Agencies Act 1973.

Eleven trade unions, coordinated by the TUC and represented by Thompsons Solicitors LLP, brought legal proceedings against the government’s changes to agency worker regulations in a bid to protect the right to strike.

Heavy criticism from employers and unions

The government recently decided it would not appeal the judgment, but hasn’t confirmed its longer-term plans for the law.  The TUC says reversing the ban again, which had been in place since 1976, would be a huge mistake.

The short-lived change in agency worker regulations was heavily criticised by unions, agency employers, and parliamentarians.

The TUC had warned the change could worsen industrial disputes, undermine the fundamental right to strike and endanger public safety if agency staff are required to fill safety critical roles but haven’t been fully trained.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which represents the recruitment sector which supplies agency workers, has previously described the rules as “unworkable”.

The Lords Committee charged with scrutinising the legislation said “the lack of robust evidence and the expected limited net benefit raise questions as to the practical effectiveness and benefit” of the new rules.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“Ministers know they broke the law when they tried to push through unworkable, shoddy legislation on agency workers covering for strikers.  That’s why they have done the right thing and decided not to appeal against the High Court’s judgment.

“The government railroaded through this law change despite widespread opposition from agency employers and unions. That’s why the Court were right to rule the change unlawful.  It’s time for clear commitments from ministers that they won’t overturn the ban on using agency workers during strikes.”

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