Unions launch legal challenge against Tories’ new anti-strike laws

Trade unions have launched a legal challenge against the governemnt’s new anti-strike laws, arguing that they are unlawful.

Ministers have change the rules to allow agency workers to be brought in to replace striking staff.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) argues that the law change violates fundamental rights protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

And they say then business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng broke the law by failing to consult unions on the move, as required under the Employment Agencies Act 1973.

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“The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty but the Government is attacking it in broad daylight,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said.

“Threatening this right tilts the balance of power too far towards employers. It means workers can’t stand up for decent services and safety at work or defend their jobs and pay.”

She added: “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.”

The TUC launched the court action on behalf of 11 unions representing train drivers, prison officers, railway staff, civil servants, journalists, shop workers and millions of workers across other industries.

The rules were changed in July by Mr Kwarteng’s business department. He said the laws had been changed “in light of militant trade union action threatening to bring vital public services to a standstill”.

The first employer to threaten staff with the new rules was upmarket department store Harrods, which cited the law in an 8 August letter to 150 staff balloting for strike action.

Richard Arthur, Head of Trade Union Law at Thompsons Solicitors LLP, 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 Fascist 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.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We make 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.

“Allowing businesses to supply skilled agency workers to plug staffing gaps does not mandate employment businesses to do this, rather this gives employers more freedom to find trained staff in the face of strike action if they choose to.”

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