Unison takes Govt to court over law allowing the use of agency workers to break strikes

Legal action against the Government over new regulations allowing agency workers to replace striking staff has been launched by UNISON

22 Sep 2022| News

Unison issued proceedings with the High Court on the 13 September, triggering the start of a process seeking a judicial review of the Government’s decision.

Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has 21 days to respond from the date the case was lodged last Tuesday.

Unison is arguing the Government’s change to the Conduct Regulations 2003* is unfair and based on unreliable evidence. These regulations previously protected employees’ right to strike and ensured agency workers could not replace them.

The union is critical of Ministers for using what it says are out-of-date and discredited findings from a 2015 consultation. The Government did this to justify the change, which came into law this July.

Unison’s legal team aims to show that the Government has ignored Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights​. This protects the right to freedom of association and international labour standards on the right to strike, says the union.

Separately, the TUC is co-ordinating similar legal action involving 11 other unions to get the regulations scrapped. If UNISON and the TUC secure the court’s permission to proceed, it is likely all the arguments will be heard together.

Unison General Secretary Christina McAnea said:

“The Government appears hell-bent on stripping ordinary working people of their historic rights and seems prepared to do anything to achieve that.

Employees striking for better wages during a cost-of-living crisis is not the problem. Ministers should be rolling up their sleeves and helping solve disputes, not risking everyone’s safety by allowing the use of inexperienced agency workers.

Changing the law in such a hostile and unpleasant way makes it much harder for workers to stand up to dodgy employers. It also risks limiting the impact of any legal strike.”


*The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003.