We are aware some users might find it difficult to log into our site today. We are working on this issue and hope to have it resolved shortly.
News

Union challenges 'unlawful' use of agency nurses during strikes

Unison has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng stating it will seek a judicial review unless he reverses new regulations which are seen as unlawful

Unison has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng stating it will seek a judicial review unless he reverses new regulations which are seen as unlawful

Controversial plans to allow agency staff to replace nurses who go on strike could be challenged in court.

Unison has announced plans to take the government to court over the change to the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003 , which came into force last week.

Unison letter to the business secretary

The change in legislation, approved by MPs

Unison has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng stating it will seek a judicial review unless he reverses new regulations which are seen as unlawful

 Unison Don't Cross The Picket sign: the union is challenging law change on using agency nurses during strikes
Picture: Alamy

Controversial plans to allow agency staff to replace nurses who go on strike could be challenged in court.

Unison has announced plans to take the government to court over the change to the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003, which came into force last week.

Unison letter to the business secretary

The change in legislation, approved by MPs earlier this month, would allow employers to use agency nurses – along with bank nurses employed by external providers – during a strike.

There is concern the move will compromise agency nurses who are union members, should they be asked to cross picket lines.

Unison has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng informing him of its intention to seek a judicial review of the new regulations, which the union believes are unlawful.

Mr Kwarteng has 14 days to respond to the letter before the union escalates the issue to the High Court in a bid to get the regulations overturned.

Government in breach of European Convention on Human Rights, argues union

A Unison spokesperson said: ‘The hope is still that the business secretary will have a change of heart, but recent rhetoric from ministers suggests this is unlikely.

‘Instead of making it harder for ordinary working people to go on strike, the government should be talking to unions and employers about how to solve the cost-of-living crisis together.’

The legislation was based on a government consultation held in 2015, but Unison says this consultation is too old and accused the government of relying on ‘flawed evidence’ to justify the change in law.

The union also intends to argue that the government is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights​, which protects the right to strike, and international labour standards.

Other unions, including the RCN, reacted angrily to the new legislation. The RCN described it as ‘deeply undemocratic and unsafe for patients’.

Increasing threat of industrial action by key workers over pay

The law change, which will now go to the House of Lords, was accelerated by recent industrial action by rail workers and comes at a time of increasing threats of strikes by nurses and other key workers over pay.

A government spokesperson said: ‘The business secretary makes 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.’

They added that agency workers are under no obligation to accept a role replacing striking nurses.


In other news

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first three months:

  • Customisable clinical dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals including Learning Disability Practice
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • NMC-compliant RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs