Unions in High Court fight with Government over agency worker regulations
Union bosses have begun a High Court fight with the Government after challenging law changes they say allow agencies to supply employers with workers to fill in for staff on strike.
More than 10 unions, including Aslef, Unite and Usdaw, have taken legal action against ministers.
A judge is considering legal arguments at a High Court hearing, which is taking place in the Royal Courts of Justice complex in London and is due to end later this week.
Union bosses want to quash the 2022 Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations and have asked Mr Justice Linden to declare them unlawful.
Lawyers representing ministers say the unions’ challenge should be dismissed.
TUC officials have been involved in co-ordinating the challenge.
“The unions – Aslef, BFAWU, FDA, GMB, NEU, NUJ, POA, PCS, RMT, Unite and Usdaw – have taken the case against the Government’s changes to the law which allow agencies to supply employers with workers to fill in for those on strike,” said a TUC spokeswoman before the hearing.
“The unions come from a wide range of sectors and represent millions of workers in the UK.
“The TUC says the hearing shows unions will fight government attacks on the right to strike all the way – including through the courts.”
Barrister Oliver Segal KC, who represented unions, 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.”
Daniel Stilitz KC, who represented ministers, said the law change was “modest”.
“The claimants seek to quash the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022 and seek a declaration that they are unlawful,” he told the judge in a written case outline.
“The 2022 Regulations repealed Regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 which made it a criminal offence for employment businesses to supply temporary workers to undertake work which would otherwise be carried out by workers who are participating in industrial action.”
He added: “This was a modest amendment to the law, which does not directly impinge on trade unions’ freedom to take industrial action.
“On any view, it has not impacted on their ability to take strike action…”