The TUC has commissioned legal advice from employment lawyer Michael Ford which examines Government proposals on industrial action
Union leaders are warning that any moves by the Government affecting industrial action are “very likely” to be illegal.
The TUC warned Prime Minister Liz Truss she could face a “tsunami” of court cases, as well as public and parliamentary opposition if she introduces fresh legislation on strikes.
The TUC has commissioned legal advice from employment lawyer Michael Ford which examines Government proposals on industrial action.
They include announcements by the Chancellor in last week’s mini budget on minimum service levels during strikes by transport workers, and requiring unions to put employers’ pay offers to a ballot of their members.
The TUC said that according to the legal advice, many of the Government’s proposed policies are a probable breach of the law because they put “disproportionate restrictions” on the right to strike, which is protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998.
In addition, many of the Government proposals also breach fundamental rights as stipulated by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which the UK has signed up to, according to the legal opinion.
Earlier this month, 11 unions co-ordinated by the TUC launched a legal challenge against new laws allowing companies to hire agency staff to replace workers on strike.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Ministers should be focussed on dealing with the cost of living emergency, and on stabilising the economy after their disastrous mini budget, but they are desperate to distract from their failures and launch a culture war against unions.
“The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty. It’s a last line of defence for working people, allowing them to defend their pay and conditions when bosses won’t negotiate, but ministers seem hellbent on attacking this right.
“Undermining the right to strike would give employers the whip hand in a dispute, leaving workers at the mercy of bad bosses.
“Our legal advice shows its plans are unworkable and would likely break the law too.
“Instead of riding roughshod over the law, ministers must start respecting it.
Michael Ford said: “There are a range of very significant practical and legal problems with the proposals.
“Several of the measures were previously rejected by ministers as unworkable or undesirable; several of them give rise to acute practical problems in implementation.
“Most of the proposals put the Government at serious risk of breaching the UK’s obligations under international law, including infringing the right to strike protected under the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The proposals need to be considered in the context of the UK’s existing strike laws, which are probably the most restrictive in Western Europe and which have already been held to be in breach of international human rights norms”.
A Government spokesman said: “While we respect the right to strike, it should always be a last resort.
“We make no apology for taking action so that essential services are run as effectively as possible, ensuring the British public don’t have to pay the price for disproportionate strike action.”