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UNIONS will be taking legal action against the government’s strike-buster agency worker regulations after the High Court granted permission for the challenge today.
The judicial review of anti-worker rules has been brought by 11 trade unions, co-ordinated by the TUC, to protect the right to strike.
Reports suggest that the government is considering new ways to undermine industrial action amid a surge in strikes across the country.
The 11 unions — Aslef, BFAWU, FDA, GMB, NEU, NUJ, POA, PCS, RMT, Unite and Usdaw — have taken up the case against the government’s new regulations, which allow agency workers to fill in for striking workers.
The unions argue that the regulations are unlawful as ministers failed to consult unions as required by the Employment Agencies Act and as they violate fundamental trade union rights protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The challenge will be heard alongside a separate case by Unison and NASUWT against the regulations.
The move is a major blow to government attempts to undermine workers’ right to strike for better pay and conditions, the TUC said.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty. But the government seems hellbent on attacking it at every opportunity.
“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.”
POA national chairman Mark Fairhurst said ministers are “shamelessly falling over themselves” to find new ways to make it harder for working people to bargain for better pay and conditions.
He said: “Working people are suffering the longest and harshest wage squeeze in modern history. They need stronger legal protections and more power in the workplace to defend their living standards, not less.”
NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said that the court’s approval of the case is an important step forward, adding that “instead of eroding the rights of workers, the government should be focused on improving the pay and working conditions of all workers.”
Richard Arthur of Thompsons Solicitors, representing the unions, said: “This is a timely reminder that the government is not above the law.”
The judicial review will be heard in March.
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