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  • New laws are a “brazen attack” on workers’ ability to bargain for higher wages at a time when millions are struggling to make ends meet, says TUC 

  • “The desperate last gasp of a government in turmoil” - union body slams proposals which are set to be voted on today 

The TUC is today (Monday) calling on MPs to reject new ”pernicious” anti-union measures which it says “threaten public safety” as the Commons debates and votes on legislation which would allow the use of agency workers during strikes. 

The TUC warns these new laws will “worsen industrial disputes” and could “endanger public safety” where agency staff are required to fill safety critical roles but haven’t been fully trained. 

The proposals, put forward by the Boris Johnson government before the prime minister stepped down, represent a “brazen” attack on workers’ bargaining power at a time when millions are struggling to make ends meet, according to the TUC. 

The union body accuses the government of “spoiling for a fight” and trying to distract from “its many failings". It adds that the proposals are the “desperate last gasp of a government in turmoil”. 

Rushing through new laws 

The TUC has accused the government of rushing through the new laws and neglecting its obligations around new legislation. 

The union body says there has been no consultation with unions, which the government is obliged to take under the Employment Agencies Act 1973, and no new impact assessment. 

The government is relying on a seven-year-old consultation, from when these plans were first mooted. The TUC points out the political and economic backdrop is now very different. 

Ministers also conducted an impact assessment in 2015 but the TUC points out that the Regulatory Policy Committee then declared the proposals as “not fit for purpose”, forcing the plans to be dropped. 

The TUC has also warned that the government’s plans could be in breach of international law (Freedom of association: ILO Convention 87).   

The government proposals have also been slammed by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which represents suppliers of agency workers as “unworkable”. 

The government is separately considering proposals which would also allow huge damages of up to £1 million to be claimed from unions if strike action falls foul of the UK’s “onerous and complex” industrial action laws. 

The TUC says this will likely lead to vexatious cases being pursued by rogue employers. 

Ahead of the vote by MPs tonight on allowing agency workers to fill in for striking workers, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: 

“MPs must waste no time and vote down this brazen attack on workers, which is the desperate last gasp of a government in turmoil. 

“It is not only cynical and ideological, but a threat to public safety.  

“These pernicious new laws will make it harder for workers to defend their jobs, pay and conditions at a time when millions are struggling to make ends meet. 

“The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty. The government wants to undermine this right and deploy agency workers as strike breakers across the economy – including on the railways. 

“Using agency workers to try and break strikes would put these workers in an appalling situation, worsen disputes and poison industrial relations. 

“And bringing in agency staff who haven’t been fully trained to deliver specific public service roles could endanger the public too. 

“Having slammed P&O for replacing experienced workers with agency staff, ministers are now using the same playbook.   

“Ministers should help to de-escalate industrial disputes. But instead they are spoiling for a fight to distract from their many failings.” 

Editors note

- TUC and REC urge government to abandon plan to allow agency staff to replace striking workers

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