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Time-wasting Tories score own-goal on bid to overturn strike ban on agency workers

THE TORIES’ latest bid to overturn a ban on using agency workers to strikebreak was dealt a blow today after the government’s own impact assessment warned the law change would poison industrial relations and prolong strikes.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said the government’s “humiliating” High Court defeat should have spelled an end to the “cynical law.”

But ministers launched a consultation last week, which says their provisional view that repealing the ban is “the most appropriate course of action.” It is due to close in January.

Their new impact assessment, however, which was published today, says the changes would “worsen the relationship between employers and workers — which could lead to more prolonged strike action in the short-term” and could hit workers’ pay and conditions. 

The High Court judge who reinstated the ban criticised ministers for acting in a way that was “unfair, unlawful and irrational” after they failed to consult with the 13 unions which had mounted the legal challenge.

Mr Nowak said: “They are resurrecting the same irrational plans.

“Allowing unscrupulous employers to bring in agency staff to deliver important services risks endangering public safety and escalating disputes.

“Agency recruitment bodies have repeatedly made clear they don’t want their staff to be put in the position where they have to cover strikes.”

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which represents suppliers of agency workers, called the announcement of the consultation “a disappointment, given the scale of opposition from employers and workers to the previous proposal.”

REC chief executive Neil Carberry said: “Neither agencies or trade unions think this change promotes effective strike resolution or protects agency workers.

“Inserting a third party like this into an industrial dispute may end up extending the dispute, not least by inflaming tensions.

“It is also puzzling that the government assumes agency staff will choose a role that requires them to cross a picket line versus one that doesn’t, when we have two million job postings in the UK.”

Joseph Evans, of the Institute for Public Policy Research, said: “The government clearly hasn’t learned any lessons from the recent strike wave.

“If they had, they’d know that the best way to solve industrial disputes is to get around the table and deliver a fair pay settlement for workers.

“This new consultation risks being a significant waste of time and money.”

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