Massive Win For Unions Over Agency Workers Law

UK unions have won a High Court fight with the Tory government after challenging law which let agencies supply employers with workers to fill in for striking staff.

UK unions took legal action against the government arguing the changes undermined the right to strike.

On July 13th Mr Justice Linden quashed the regulations having considered legal arguments at a High Court hearing in May this year.

Barrister Oliver Segal KC, who represented the UK unions (ASLEF, BFAWU, FDA, GMB, NEU, NUJ, POA, PCS, RMT, Unite and Usdaw with Unison and NASUWT bringing their own separate legal challenges)  had told the judge in a written case outline: “It is obvious that allowing employers unlimited freedom to replace striking workers with temporary agency workers, with at least two weeks’ notice to do so, undermines the right to strike.”

The TUC says the ruling is a “badge of shame” for the Conservative government – and a “major blow” to “ministers’ attempts to undermine the right to strike”.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:  “This defeat is a badge of shame for the Conservatives, who have been found guilty of breaching the law. Bringing in less-qualified agency staff to deliver important services risks endangering public safety, worsening disputes and poisoning industrial relations.   

 “The government railroaded through this law change despite widespread opposition from agency employers and unions. The courts even found ministers ignored evidence that the measure would be counterproductive. “

Responding to the judgment, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is a total vindication for unions and workers. The government’s decision to allow employers to recruit agency workers to undermine legal strike action was a cynical move to back their friends in business and weaken workers’ legal rights to withdraw their labour.
“It was entirely counterproductive as rather than weaken industrial action it has hardened attitudes and unnecessarily extended strikes. This ill-thought out, divisive legislation must be consigned to the dustbin of history.”

Commenting on the judgment, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “No one ever wants to go on strike. But when that difficult decision has been taken, employers should be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at ending a dispute, not inflaming tensions by undermining staff.

“This futile piece of legislation has barely spent a year on the statute book. Parachuting untrained agency workers into the midst of industrial hostilities isn’t fair or safe for them, the public or the staff out on strike.

Campaign For Trade Union Freedom Vice President Lord John Hendy KC said: “The case shows that the government is ideologically unable to tolerate an obligation to consult unions even to the extent that, as the judge held, it was ‘so unfair as to be unlawful and, indeed, irrational.’ The same irrational mindset impels the government resolutely to refuse the Lords’ amendment to the Strikes (MSL) Bill to include an obligation to consult before making minimum service regulations.

Mr Justice Linden said he upheld arguments put forward by unions and would “quash the 2022 regulations”, which were introduced by former Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

This entry was posted in Campaign For Trade Union Freedom News, UK Employment Rights, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *