Toggle high contrast
Issue date
  • Guidance for employers published on minimum service levels as TUC accuses government of trying to wrap employers and unions in red tape 
  • Conservatives set to overturn ban on use of agency workers during strikes despite “humiliating” High Court defeat  

The government’s “draconian” anti-strike laws “have been designed to escalate disputes – not resolve them”, the TUC has today (Thursday) warned. 

The warning comes as the government has published guidance for employers on issuing work notices. 

The TUC says this guidance – along with the statutory code of practice published earlier this week – makes an already-dire piece of legislation even worse.  

The union body adds that the government is “trying to wrap unions and employers in red tape” – noting that ministers have published 11,000 word guidance explaining to employers how to use an Act of 2,000 words. 

New Strikes regs 

The announcement comes after the government laid regulations for minimum service levels in rail, the ambulance service and border security.  

Ministers have said these new rules will be rushed into force by the end of the year. Ministers are also consulting on rules affecting workers in hospital settings, schools, universities and fire services.  

The laws will mean that when workers lawfully vote to strike, they could be forced to attend work – and sacked if they don’t comply.  

TUC research found a massive 1 in 5 workers in Britain – or 5.5 million workers – are at risk of losing their right to strike as a result of the Strikes (Minimum service levels) Act. 

Agency workers 

Ministers will try again to overturn the ban on the use of agency workers during strikes, as the government launches a consultation on the law change.  

In June the government was defeated in the High Court after it rushed through new laws that allowed agencies to supply employers with workers to fill in for those on strike.  

The presiding judge criticised ministers for acting in a way that was “unfair, unlawful and irrational” and reinstated the ban on agency staff being used to break strikes.  

But despite this rebuke – and strong opposition from unions and employers – ministers are resurrecting the plans with a new consultation.  

The government’s new impact assessment says the law change will poison industrial relations and prolong strikes.  

Commenting on the publication of guidance for issuing work notices, TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: 

“The Conservatives’ anti-strike laws have been designed to escalate disputes – not resolve them. They will only poison industrial relations and worsen disputes. 

“This draconian legislation represents a brazen attack on the right to strike – they’re unworkable, undemocratic and likely in breach of international law.     

“Ministers have produced guidance which makes an already-dire piece of legislation even worse. 

“They’re trying to wrap employers and unions in red tape with these unworkable laws. 

“And the guidance does little to stop bad employers weaponising the legislation and targeting workers. 

“That’s why unions will keep fighting this spiteful legislation. We won’t stop until it is repealed. 

“And every decent employer must reject these unworkable new laws. That means doing everything in their power to avoid using this counterproductive legislation. 

Commenting on the announcement on agency workers, TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:   

“The Conservatives’ humiliating High Court defeat should have spelled the end of this cynical law. But now they are resurrecting the same irrational plans. 

“Allowing unscrupulous employers to bring in agency staff to deliver important services risks endangering public safety and escalating disputes.  

“Agency recruitment bodies have repeatedly made clear they don’t want their staff to be put in the position where they have to cover strikes. But ministers are not listening.  

“The government’s own impact assessment is clear – this change will poison industrial relations and drag out disputes.  

"This is the act of a desperate government looking to distract from its appalling record.” 


Editors note

Agency worker regs: The new impact assessment, which has been published today, says the change will result in “worsening in the relationship between employers and workers – which could lead to more prolonged strike action in the short-term". 

-Special Congress: The TUC will hold a special Congress to discuss the next stage of campaigning against the Conservatives’ anti-strike laws. The event will take place at Congress House on Saturday 9 December 2023, from 10am-1pm. The TUC press office will send an op note with further details, including on media accreditation, in the coming weeks. 
- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 


TUC press office   
020 7467 1248  

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

To access the admin area, you will need to setup two-factor authentication (TFA).

Setup now