REC ‘disappointed’ on new consultation on using agency workers in strikes

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation has expressed “disappointment” at the government’s announcement of a consultation on removing the prohibition on use of agency workers in strikes.

The prohibition is known as Regulation 7. Government repealed the long-standing legislation in July 2022 to enable the hire of agency workers to cover strikers. 

Last summer, the High Court upheld a judicial review challenge brought by 13 trade unions to the revocation of Regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003, which prohibited employment businesses from supplying temporary workers to cover the work of those taking part in official industrial action.

However, the government has now called for a consultation on Regulation 7. In an announcement on Monday [6 Nov 2023], along with revealing plans for parliament to set minimum service levels for rail, ambulance and border security staff to mitigate disruption if strikes called, the government said it would publish details of the Regulation 7 consultation “in due course”.

Also planned are further consultations to introduce minimum service levels for education, other NHS staff and fire services, the government said.

Commenting, REC CEO Neil Carberry said: “The announcement of a consultation on whether to remove the prohibition on use of agency workers in strikes is a disappointment, given the scale of opposition from employers and workers to the previous proposal. We will represent the views of agencies fully in response to the consultation.

“Neither agencies or trade unions think this change promotes effective strike resolution or protects agency workers. Strikes are industrial disputes within a single industry or firm. Inserting a third party like this into an industrial dispute may end up extending the dispute, not least by inflaming tensions,” Carberry said.

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