Unions to report UK government to UN body over strike law

The controversial statute covers minimum service levels in crucial sectors that have to be met in the event of a protest action

Demonstrators hold placards during a British Trades Union Congress rally. Getty Images
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Britain's Trade Unions Congress is to report the UK government to the UN body that oversees workers' rights, over the controversial new law covering strike action.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said the case will be lodged with the International Labour Organisation because the Strike Act, which ensures minimum levels of service during strikes, “falls far short” of international legal standards.

The government pushed for the legislation after a year of protest action by hundreds of thousands of workers, including nurses, teachers, civil servants and railway staff.

The Strike Law passed through Parliament in July and the government said it will “help protect the safety of the general public and ensure essential services are there when they need them – whether getting the train to work or being able to call an ambulance in times of emergency”.

'Breach of international law'

Speaking on the opening day of the TUC's annual conference in Liverpool, Mr Nowak told delegates that the new law was “dreadful”.

“These laws haven't been designed to resolve conflict at work. They've been designed to escalate it,” he said.

“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.”

European Trade Union Confederation general secretary Esther Lynch backed the TUC's move, saying that the Strike Act was 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,” she said.

“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.”

Updated: September 11, 2023, 8:17 AM