The TUC is reporting the Government to the United Nations workers’ rights watchdog over the controversial new law on strikes, it has been announced.
General secretary Paul Nowak said the union body will be lodging the case at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) because the legislation on ensuring minimum levels of service during industrial action “falls far short” of international legal standards.
Speaking on the opening day of the TUC Congress in Liverpool, Mr Nowak described the new law as “dreadful”.
Unions will attack the legislation during a debate on Monday, saying the new law is unnecessary and unworkable and will do nothing to resolve disputes.
The Government took forward the legislation following a year of unprecedented industrial action by hundreds of thousands of workers, including nurses, teachers, civil servants and railway staff.
Mr Nowak told a news conference in Liverpool: “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 well 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.
“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.
“They’re the product of a desperate Conservative Government spoiling for a fight with unions to distract from their dire economic record.
“The Strikes Act is the nadir of the Conservatives’ wretched record on living standards and rights at work.”
A Government spokesman said: “The purpose of this legislation is to protect the lives and livelihoods of the general public and ensure they can continue to access vital public services during strikes.
“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.”
Mr Nowak was backed by European Trade Union Confederation general secretary Esther Lynch, who said: “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.
“Rather than bringing the UK in line with its European partners – these draconian laws will cut it adrift.
“It is already harder for working people in the UK to take strike action than in any other Western European country.
“Now your Government wants to restrict the right to strike even further.
“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 matters. This could expose the UK to potentially hefty economic sanctions.”
Mr Nowak urged employers to reject the new law, saying it was totally unworkable.
“This legislation will only poison industrial relations and drag out disputes.
“It has obviously been designed by ministers who have never been to a workplace.”