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Hiring agency staff to cover industrial action

Trades Union Congress response to government consultation
Tim Sharp
Senior Policy Officer - trade union and employment law
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date

The TUC brings together more than 5.5 million working people who belong to our 48 member unions. We support trade unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

We oppose the proposed repeal of regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003, which is a further and unjustified attempt to undermine the right to strike:

  • Both workers and agency employers oppose the measure.
  • It is counterproductive and would make disputes harder to resolve.
  • Together with other recent measures, it seeks to undermine the ability of workers to take collective action to defend their pay and conditions.
  • It creates unnecessary health, safety and wellbeing risks for workers.
  • It is likely contrary to international law.

This measure is being brought forward once again, despite the consistent opposition of both trade unions and employment agency employers to the revocation of a provision that had been in place since 1976. Governments of both main parties have long acknowledged this protection as an essential element of Great Britain’s industrial relations framework.

The previous repeal of this regulation was quashed by the High Court due to failings in consultation. It is therefore remarkable that the government has opted for a truncated consultation period. This consultation is open for just eight weeks, as opposed to the standard 12.

We also note that in his judgment, Mr Justice Linden concluded that “the case for the measure was on any view less than overwhelming”. This remains the case. As we set out below, the government has failed to find evidence to support the case for this change.

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