PCS to launch judicial review over Border Force anti-strike law

Union says the legislation restricts right to strike under the European Convention on Human Rights
Photo: PA/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

29 Jan 2024

PCS has said it will launch a judicial review against the government’s anti-strike legislation in the Border Force.

The civil service’s biggest union announced its plan to appeal against the law at a rally in Cheltenham on Saturday to mark the 40th anniversary of the ban on trade union membership at GCHQ.

The Minimum Service Levels Act, affecting the border security, rail and ambulance sectors, came into force in December and aims to limit the impact of industrial action by forcing workers to maintain a minimum level of service throughout strikes.

PCS's outgoing general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said the union has put the government on notice that it will launch a judicial review against the regulations on the grounds that they contravene the right to strike enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. PCS's lawyers have given the government 14 days to respond.

Speaking at the GCHQ march on Saturday, Serwotka said: “Forty years on from Margaret Thatcher banning unions at GCHQ, a Conservative government is once again attacking trade unions. 

“So it’s fitting today, as we mark the courage and determination of those workers who refused to hand in their trade union membership, that I can tell you we will be fighting this new injustice in the courts.”

Serwotka, who leaves his role as leader of the union on 31 January, added: “It is a fundamental human right of any worker to withdraw their labour to protect their terms and one we shall defend on behalf of our members in the Border Force.”

The Minimum Service Levels Act says that when workers lawfully vote to strike, employers can compel certain staff to attend work. Those who do not comply can be sacked.

Neil Todd of Thompsons Solicitors, which is representing PCS, said: “Minimum service levels are very difficult to justify in a legal regime which is already so restrictive when it comes to trade union rights. 

“The border security minimum service regulations provide an unlimited freedom to undermine the right to strike, which we contend is unlawful as it exceeds powers under the Strikes Act."

The Trades Union Congress pledged in December to provide support for any union or worker who is sanctioned by the laws, and to mount legal challenges. 

 A government spokesperson said: “Our priority is to maintain a safe and secure border that provides an efficient experience for the millions of passengers who pass through it every year. ”

“These new laws are an appropriate balance between ensuring the right to strike while protecting our borders and minimising disruption as the public would expect.”

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