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UK unions challenge rule allowing agency workers to fill in during strikes

·1-min read

LONDON (Reuters) -A group of British trade unions is seeking a judicial review of regulations allowing companies to hire temporary staff from agencies to fill in for striking workers, the unions said on Tuesday.

Eleven trade unions across a range of industries and representing millions of workers said the rules could worsen industrial disputes and undermine the right to strike.

The British government this year changed rules to make it easier for businesses to use temporary staff to minimise the impact of strike action as workers across the rail network and other industries walked out in disputes over pay.

The unions said the new rules were unlawful as the then-business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng failed to consult unions.

"The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty. But the government is attacking it in broad daylight," Trade Unions Congress General Secretary Frances O'Grady said in a statement.

"Threatening this right tilts the balance of power too far towards employers. It means workers can't stand up for decent services and safety at work – or defend their jobs and pay."

Judicial review is a process where a judge examines the lawfulness of a public body's decision.

Britain's business department defended the plans and said it was confident they met domestic and international legal obligations.

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

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar Editing by William James and Mark Potter)