Trade Unions challenge law change allowing agency workers to replace strikers
The UK Government is being challenged by 12 trade unions over its controversial change in the law to allow firms to hire agency workers to replace strikers.
Thompsons Solicitors wrote to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on behalf of the unions claiming the new regulations are a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It also claimed that the new regulations violate the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, which commits the UK to respecting, promoting and implementing internationally recognised core labour standards, including those relating to freedom of association and the recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
Mr Kwarteng will have 14 days to respond before a judicial claim is filed.
Richard Arthur, head of trade union law at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The Conservatives won the 2019 general election on the promise of raising standards in workers’ rights, and ‘levelling up’.
“They have been determined to do the exact opposite. Whether it’s promises to remove retained EU workers’ rights or making it more difficult to organise industrial action, this Government has shown its commitment to removing the means by which workers will get the pay rises they need to see them through the cost-of-living crisis.
“The new agency worker regulations were supposed to appease the right of the Conservative Party. That tactic didn’t work.
“Now we see Liz Truss talking of increasing minimum voter thresholds for industrial action, doubling the minimum strike action notice period to four weeks, and introducing a ‘cooling-off period’ for strike action.
“Internationally protected trade union rights are being used as red meat to feed, first to Boris Johnson’s detractors, and now to the Conservative Party’s members in the leadership election.
“If the Business Secretary won’t see sense, then he’ll face a judicial review.”
The 12 unions involved are Unite, Usdaw, BFAWU, UCU, RMT, Aslef, FDA, NEU, PCS, POA, Balpa and the GMB.
Unison announced last week it was taking legal action to challenge the Government on the issue.
The law was changed in the wake of the rail strikes which have crippled services, with more walkouts on Wednesday and Saturday as well as next month.
The new law overrides the Trade Union Wales Act which was introduced in 2017 and prohibits using temporary workers to cover industrial action.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Business Secretary makes no apology for taking action so that essential services are run as effectively as possible, ensuring the British public don’t have to pay the price for disproportionate strike action.”
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