Eleven trade unions, including RMT, Unite and GMB, are seeking permission for a judicial review to overturn the UK government’s strikebreaking law, which lets firms bring in temporary staff to replace striking workers.
The trade unions are seeking permission for a judicial review in arguing the law breaches Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and that unions were not consulted by former business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng during the drafting process.
They are claiming the new laws violate Article 11 of the ECHR – which guarantees freedom of assembly and association – in undermining the right to strike.
The 11 unions include the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), whose members are set to strike at the start of next month as part of newly announced October rail strikes.
The challenge comes after the UK government in July brought the law into force with a view to mitigating “the disproportionate impact strike action can have both on the UK economy and society.”
Recruitment agencies later hit out the new law in claiming the changes risk damaging the reputation of the temporary staffing sector.
The recruiters argued recruitment firms and agency staff may also be reluctant to cross picket lines as they warned the powers risk endangering temporary workers.
The House of Lords committee tasked with evaluating the law also raised questions about the “practical effectiveness and benefit” of the new law as it said the change would likely have “limited net benefit.”
The legal challenge comes as the UK faces an ongoing wave of industrial action amid widespread discontent over pay in the face or soaring inflation.
A Government spokesperson said: “We make no apology for taking action so that essential services are run as effectively as possible, ensuring the British public don’t have to pay the price for disproportionate strike action.”
“Allowing businesses to supply skilled agency workers to plug staffing gaps does not mandate employment businesses to do this, rather this gives employers more freedom to find trained staff in the face of strike action if they choose to.”
Richard Arthur, head of trade union law at Thompsons Solicitors, said: ““The Conservative government should face up to its legal obligations under both domestic and international law, instead of forever trying to undermine the internationally recognised right to strike.”