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  • TUC general secretary says “unworkable” anti-strike laws have been designed to “escalate” industrial tensions rather than to resolve them
  • Nowak says “workers’ rights are on the ballot paper” at the next election
  • ETUC general secretary Esther Lunch warns UK will be “an international outlier” on labour standards
  • Lynch says legislation could be in breach of UK-EU trade agreement

The TUC has today (Sunday) announced it is reporting the Conservative government to the International Labour Organization (ILO) – the UN workers’ rights watchdog – over the Strikes Act.

In a press conference this morning, TUC general secretary Paul Nowak – speaking alongside ETUC general secretary Esther Lynch and two frontline workers – announced the union body would be lodging the case because the legislation “falls far short” of international legal standards.

Paul Nowak said:

“Today, I can announce that we are reporting the government to the UN workers’ rights watchdog, the ILO, over these pernicious new laws.  

 “The ILO has already slapped down the UK government and ordered it to make sure existing and prospective legislation is in line with ILO standards. 

“We believe the Strikes Act falls way short of that. And that’s why we have submitted a case to the ILO over these new laws. 

“Unions defeated the government in the High Court over the unlawful use of agency workers during strikes.  We are determined to win again.

Attacking the government’s Strikes Act, Paul said:

“These laws haven’t been designed to resolve conflict at work, they’ve been designed to escalate it. 

“They’re unworkable, undemocratic and almost certainly in breach of international law.

“They’re the product of a desperate Conservative government spoiling for a fight with unions to distract from their dire economic record. 

On workers’ rights being on the ballot paper at the next election, Paul said:

“The Strikes Act is the nadir of the Conservatives’ wretched record on living standards and rights at work.  

“This [the Conservatives] is a party that has presided over an explosion in insecure work.

“A party that has weakened unfair dismissal laws and introduced tribunal fees.

“A party that let P&O Ferries get away scot-free after the illegal mass sacking of 800 seafarers.

“That’s why, at the next election, workers’ rights will be on the ballot paper.

“While the Conservatives have made it a priority to attack people at work during a living standards crisis, Labour is offering a transformative new deal, which includes:

  • Day one employment rights like protection from unfair dismissal.  
  • Banning fire and rehire and the abuse of zero hours contracts. 
  • AND REPEALING the divisive Strikes Act. 

 “With an employment bill in the first 100 days.

Rejecting the comparisons made by the UK government with wider-Europe, ETUC general secretary Esther Lynch said:

“The Strikes Act is a fundamental attack on the right to strike and will make the UK an international outlier on trade union rights and labour standards.

 “Rather than bringing the UK in line with its European partners – these draconian laws will cut it adrift.

 “Let me by crystal clear. It is already harder for working people in the UK to take strike action than in any other Western European country.

 “Now your government wants to restrict the right to strike even further.

On the impact on trade with Europe, Esther warned:

“Then there is the matter of future trade with Europe.

“We believe that the Strikes Act breaches two of the UK’s commitments in its post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU.

“Firstly – its commitment to maintaining a level playing field including on labour standards. 

“And secondly – its commitment to respecting fundamental International Labour Organisation conventions.

“This matters. This could expose the UK to potentially hefty economic sanctions.”

Editors note

-Full transcripts are available on request from the TUC press team

- About the ETUC: The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) represents 45 million members from 93 trade union organisations in 41 European countries, plus 10 European Trade Union Federations.
- Congress 2023 will be held in the ACC Liverpool (Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool L3 4FP) from Sunday 10 September to Wednesday 13 September. The deadline for obtaining free media accreditation has now passed. Late applications will be subject to a £75 + VAT administration fee. Passes will be processed and sent out from the middle of August. For more information, please contact the press office.
- 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 

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