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Trade unions unite to battle government over strike regulations

Trade unions across the UK, in conjunction with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), have joined together to pursue legal action against legislation that allows organisations to use agency workers as cover for striking staff.

Rail unions the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) are among the 11 unions joining together, along with Unite, FDA, the National Education Union (NEU) and GMB. 

The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union (BFAWU), the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), the Prison Officers Association (POA) and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are also included. 

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The TUC will help co-ordinate the action, while the groups will be represented by Thompsons Solicitors.

Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis said the government should have more urgent priorities than launching attacks against trade unions.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “It beggars belief that, in the midst of a cost of living emergency, the government has chosen to launch an ideological attack on trade union members engaged in lawful industrial action to secure a fairer deal. Such an attack on people protecting their incomes clearly demonstrates they have little understanding of the very real issues that face workers.

“Instead of undermining trade union members, the government should be working with us on urgent plans to eliminate low-pay and insecure work. The new PM would do well to adopt Labour’s New Deal for Workers.

"With an estimated 12 million households facing fuel poverty, the British public will be disgusted with a new Prime Minister that is prioritising attacks on trade unions over tackling the cost of living crisis that the Tories themselves have created.”

Earlier this month, the TUC reported the government to the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) for its agency workers policy. 

Trade unions Unison and NASUWT are launching separate individual legal cases against the government’s agency worker laws.

Tim Sharp, TUC senior employment rights policy officer, told HR magazine the government should be working with employees rather than against them.

He said: “The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty which allows workers to defend their pay and conditions when employers won't negotiate. 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.

“If ministers were serious about tackling the cost of living crisis, they would be helping workers secure pay rises, not undermining them. Ministers failed in their legal duties to consult with unions. And restricting the freedom to strike is a breach of international law too.

“That’s why unions are coming together to challenge this change in the courts.”