The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has announced it is reporting the Conservative government to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over the Strikes Act.
In a press conference yesterday (10 September), Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC, Esther Lynch, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, and two frontline workers, stated that the union body would be lodging the case with the United Nations (UN) workers’ rights watchdog because the legislation “falls far short” of international legal standards.
The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act, which received Royal Assent in July, will require some employees to work during industrial action or risk losing their job.
Under the new law, which will apply to England, Scotland and Wales, the government would set minimum service levels after a consultation. Employers will then be able to issue a work notice to unions that sets out who is required to work during a strike, and would be able to sue unions for losses if a strike is not conducted in accordance with the law.
There would also be no automatic protection from unfair dismissal for an employee who is told to work through a notice but chooses to strike. A public consultation is under way into how the legislation will be implemented by employers.
Nowak said: “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. 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.”
Lynch added: “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. 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 could expose the UK to potentially hefty economic sanctions.”
Kevin Hollinrake, business minister, said: “This legislation is an appropriate balance between the ability to strike, and protecting lives and livelihoods. The UK remains a world leader for workers’ rights and these new laws will not prevent a union from organising industrial action.”