Govt warned they are 'spoiling for a fight' by allowing agency workers to replace strikers

11 July 2022, 00:02

Unions warned the Government are 'spoiling for a fight' by allowing agency staff to replace strikers
Unions warned the Government are 'spoiling for a fight' by allowing agency staff to replace strikers. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Unions have accused the Government of "spoiling for a fight" by pressing ahead with controversial moves to allow agency workers to replace strikers, which they say is a "brazen attack on workers".

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The TUC called on MPs to reject "pernicious anti-union measures" which it believes threatens public safety.

Ahead of debates and votes on planned legislation, the TUC said new laws will worsen industrial disputes.

The proposals, put forward by the Boris Johnson government before the Prime Minister announced his intention to step down, were in response to the rail dispute which has seen thousands of workers go on strike in recent weeks.

The TUC said there has been no consultation with unions and warned the Government's plans could be in breach of international law.

Read more: Britain's summer of strikers as nurses, teachers and binmen could walk out

The proposals have also been criticised by the recruitment industry.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "MPs must waste no time and vote down this brazen attack on workers, which is the desperate last gasp of a Government in turmoil.

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"It is not only cynical and ideological, but a threat to public safety.

"These pernicious new laws will make it harder for workers to defend their jobs, pay and conditions at a time when millions are struggling to make ends meet.

"The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty. The Government wants to undermine this right and deploy agency workers as strike breakers across the economy - including on the railways.

"Using agency workers to try and break strikes would put these workers in an appalling situation, worsen disputes and poison industrial relations.

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"Bringing in agency staff who haven't been fully trained to deliver specific public-service roles could endanger the public too.

"Having slammed P&O for replacing experienced workers with agency staff, ministers are now using the same playbook.

"Ministers should help to de-escalate industrial disputes, but instead they are spoiling for a fight to distract from their many failings."

Frances O'Grady said 'MPs must waste no time and vote down this brazen attack on workers'
Frances O'Grady said 'MPs must waste no time and vote down this brazen attack on workers'. Picture: Alamy

A Government spokesperson said: "The Government makes no apology for taking action so that essential services, such as train lines, are run as effectively as possible, ensuring the British public don't have to pay the price for disproportionate strike action.

"Allowing businesses to supply skilled agency workers to plug staffing gaps does not mandate employment businesses to do this, rather this legislation gives employers more freedom to find trained staff in the face of strike action if they choose to."

Labour called on the Government to scrap the proposals, saying they had been "plunged into doubt" after last week's ministerial reshuffle.

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Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader and shadow secretary of state for the future of work, said: "This shoddy plan is unsafe and unworkable. It's time for this dysfunctional Government to take some responsibility and withdraw this threat to public safety.

"Breaking strikes with untrained agency workers is a downright dangerous Tory fantasy in place of real solutions. It's anti-business, anti-worker and is a recipe for disaster.

"Business leaders oppose this shoddy plot as much as unions do. Labour will stand up for workers and businesses by opposing this foolish and inflammatory move.

"This is a zombie Conservative Government presiding over utter chaos. They're unfit to govern."