The integrity of new legislation which allows companies to use temporary workers to cover for striking staff, is being challenged at the highest possible level by the TUC. The unions movement have reported the UK government to the International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations that sets standards for workers around the world.
In their submission, the TUC states that the UK government has breached rights which should be guaranteed by ILO conventions, rights which are ratified by the UK. It wrote: “The TUC is extremely concerned that these plans would severely impinge on unions’ rights […] in particular by making it extremely difficult to take effective industrial action.”
In addition, the new regulations violate the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement under which the UK is required to respect, promote and implement internationally recognised core labour standards, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
If it decides the complaint is valid, the ILO has the power to censure the UK as a signatory to its conventions in reports. That could be embarrassing for the government, which regularly comments on rights in other countries. However, the ILO does not have the power to intervene directly in British lawmaking.
The TUC has previously complained to the UK government about the way that the new legislation was brought in, stating that the business secretary failed to discharge the obligation to consult with affected bodies, as required under the Employment Agencies Act 1973.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The right to strike is a fundamental freedom, but the Conservative government is attacking it at every opportunity. Threatening this right tilts the balance of power too far towards employers, and breaches the legal obligations ministers signed up to in government.”