The High Court has given the green light to Unions’ legal challenge against “strike-breaking” agency worker regulations. A Judicial review of “anti-worker” regulations which “undermine the right to strike” is expected to be heard in March.

The High Court granted permission for the legal challenge – brought by eleven trade unions, coordinated by the TUC, and represented by Thompsons Solicitors LLP – to protect the right to strike. The unions – ASLEF, BFAWU, FDA, GMB, NEU, NUJ, POA, PCS, RMT, Unite and Usdaw – have taken the case against the government’s new regulations which allow agency workers to fill in for striking workers.

A hearing will be held from late March onwards. The challenge will be heard along with separate legal cases launched by TUC affiliated unions UNISON and NASUWT against the government’s agency worker regulations, which have also been given the green light by the High Court.

The TUC says the move is a “major blow” to Government attempts to undermine workers’ right to strike for better pay and conditions.

With industrial action taking place across the economy after years of declining real pay and attacks on working conditions, reports suggest the Government is considering new ways to restrict workers’ right to strike.

In addition to the agency worker regulations brought in last summer, ministers are already pushing through legislation on minimum service levels in transport – with the bill due for its second reading in the new year.

In threatening the right to strike, the TUC has accused the government of attacking a fundamental British liberty and making it harder for working people to bargain for better pay and conditions in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

Unlawful agency worker regulations
The unions argue that the regulations are unlawful because:

  • The then Secretary of State for business failed to consult unions, as required by the Employment Agencies Act 1973.
  • They violate fundamental trade union rights protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The change has been heavily criticised by unions, agency employers, and parliamentarians. The TUC has warned these new laws will worsen industrial disputes, undermine the fundamental right to strike and could endanger public safety if inexperienced agency staff are required to fill safety critical roles.

The TUC recently reported the UK government to the UN workers’ rights watchdog, the International Labour Organization (ILO), over the recent spate of anti-union and anti-worker legislation and proposals, including the government’s agency worker regulations, which it says are in breach of international law.

POA General Secretary, Steve Gillan said:

“The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty which this Union have been denied since 1994. We considered that to be unjust in 1994 and we consider it to be unjust now. The Government seems hellbent on attacking Unions at every opportunity, and the POA will stand shoulder to shoulder with our sister Unions in defending Trade Union rights”.

POA National Chair, Mark Fairhurst, said:

“With inflation at an eyewatering 11%, ministers are shamelessly falling over themselves to find new ways to make it harder for working people to bargain for better pay and conditions.

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

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.”



For further information, contact:
POA Press Office 020 8803 0255 Option 7

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.