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Trade Unions challenge law change allowing agency workers to replace strikers

27 Jul 2022 3 minute read
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) on the picket line. Photo Jacob King PA Images

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.

Workers rights

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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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

Another example of how Eton works against the common good of the people of this nation…

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago

Workers of the world awaken. Break your chains, demand your rights.
All the wealth you make is taken, by exploiting parasites.
Shall you kneel in deep submission from your cradle to your grave?
Is the height of your ambition to be a good and willing slave?
Joe Hill

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago

I hope no minds me putting this here. These are quotes from people who are working on our railways, who are striking because they want a fair wage for them and a safe transport infrastructure for you and me. I’ve copied it from an email I got from Open Democracy, an organisation I donate to when I can. Alan O’Neil, station worker, Southeastern“There’s a young girl who lives in a care home near my station. She is only 12 years old. Almost on a daily basis, she runs away from her carers and comes here. We try to find the… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Good for you, Cathy…Mostly offshore operators so why would they care what happens to the people of Brexitannia…and we know how much the government care about us…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

When I was listening to the 6 o’clock news in the car just now I was thinking about what you had written…pity you don’t read the news…

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