UNISON to challenge government strike-breaking laws at High Court

The union is challenging government regulations that allow employers to hire agency staff to replace striking workers

Royal Courts of Justice in London

Tomorrow, UNISON will be challenging the government’s new strike-breaking laws in the High Court.

Since 1976, it has been unlawful for employers to introduce or supply agency workers to replace workers who are taking part in a strike or industrial action. For decades, it has been a criminal offence to knowingly supply agency workers on strike days.

However, in the heat of last summer’s rail strikes, the government rapidly removed this key regulation without consulting trade unions. Since July 2022, agencies have been legally permitted to supply temporary workers to replace striking workers.

UNISON argues that this is unlawful and violates fundamental trade union rights.

The case will be heard at the High Court on 3 and 4 May this week alongside two parallel cases, brought by the NASUWT and the TUC, whose case is on behalf of eleven unions.

Describing the regulations as “impractical and dangerous”, UNISON director of legal services, Adam Creme said: “These regulations allow employers to bus in people who are not qualified with the sole intention of breaking legitimate industrial action.

“UNISON is deeply concerned about this government’s repeated attempts to remove rights from workers and trade unions.”

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Breaking strikes with unqualified and ill-experienced agency workers doesn’t address the root causes of why people are striking, and it only puts the public in danger.”