The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is reporting the government to the UN Workers’ rights watchdog over its controversial strikes bill.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said the “unworkable” legislation, which will enforce minimum service levels during strike action, will “escalate” industrial tensions rather than to resolve them.
He believes the bill “falls short” of international standards on the right to strike, and is reporting the government to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
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Mr Nowak will make the announcement in a press conference this afternoon, when he will say: “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.”
The government took forward the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill following a year of unprecedented industrial action by hundreds of thousands of workers including nurses, teachers, civil servants and railway staff.
It seeks to ensure a legally mandated level of service across key sectors like the NHS during a strike, and will allow bosses to fire employees who ignore notices ordering them to work on strike days.
Unions and Labour fiercely oppose the bill, which they say is an attack on the right to strike.
Mr Nowak said the 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,” he will say.
“They’re the product of a desperate Conservative government spoiling for a fight with unions to distract from their dire economic record.”
The move comes on the opening day of the annual TUC conference in Liverpool.
Unions had briefed that they would call for a legal challenge to the legislation, with the Fire Brigades Union expected to press for a campaign of mass non-compliance, up to and including industrial action, during debates at the conference.
The new laws would apply to workers in six industries: health, fire and rescue, education, border security, nuclear decommissioning and transport.
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Speaking ahead of the conference opening, a government spokesperson defended the bill, saying it will protect the lives of the general public and ensure they can continue to access vital public services during strikes.
The spokesperson added: “The legislation does not remove the ability to strike, but people expect the government to act in circumstances where their rights and freedoms are being disproportionately impacted, and that’s what we are doing with this bill.”