The UK High Court has ruled that government legislation introduced last year, which allowed employers to use agency workers to replace striking workers, is unlawful.
The legislation, which was passed in July 2022 by the country’s Conservative government, was challenged by UNISON and other trade unions on the grounds it was unfair, unlawful, and irrational. The unions argued the legislation gave employers too much power to undermine industrial action and did not provide adequate safeguards for striking workers.
The decision has been touted as a victory for unions and for workers’ rights.
In his ruling, Justice Linden found the government had failed to properly consult with the unions before introducing the legislation. He also found the legislation was too broad and gave employers too much discretion in how they could use agency workers to replace striking workers.
The judge’s ruling means the legislation is now quashed and is no longer on the statute books. This also means employers in the UK can no longer use agency workers to replace striking workers.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea called the ruling “a victory for unions and for workers’ rights.”
“The government’s attempt to break strikes by using agency workers was unlawful and unfair,” Ms McAnea said.
“This ruling sends a clear message to employers that they cannot use strike-breaking tactics to undermine workers’ rights.”
The ruling is a major setback for the country’s Conservative government, which had hoped to use the legislation to weaken the power of unions. The decision is also a boost for unions, who have been fighting against the government’s anti-union agenda.