Socialist Worker

Is Royal Mail breaking the law to try and beat the strike?

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2175

The scabbing operation by Royal Mail was under growing pressure this week.

Right to Work campaign supporters were set to protest at the scab mail centre set up by post bosses in Dartford, Kent, on Wednesday morning.

And the CWU union plans to launch legal action to stop Royal Mail using agency staff to break the strikes.

The bosses are attempting to hire 30,000 temporary workers, which the CWU argues is a breach of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003.

The relevant section of the Act states that, “...an employment business may not supply a temporary worker to a hirer to replace an individual taking part in an official strike or any other official industrial dispute.

“In addition, an employment business must not introduce or supply a work-seeker to do the work of someone who has been transferred by the hirer to perform the duties of the person on strike or taking industrial action.”

In other words, you can’t hire agency workers to break a strike. Supplying scab labour is a criminal offence.

The GMB union has set up a “scab hotline” for people to report agencies supplying workers to replace workers on strike, on 020 8971 4217.


The legal firm Blake Lapthorn is offering advice to employment agencies on “legitimate ways in which recruiters can help employers at a time of industrial unrest”.

As well as making sure agencies don’t fall foul of the law, the company asks, “Is it even possible that future historians, politicians and members of the public will come to recognise recruiters as the people who helped keep vital public services going during the great strikes of 2010–2015?

“We suspect in fact that it will be convenient for everyone publicly to blame the recruiters for stirring up industrial unrest, and recruiters may need to have good PR lined up.

“In any event we believe many recruiters will find profitable supply opportunities.”


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