European test for pay rise law urged: Union seeks case to challenge Act

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UNIONS will be urged to fund a 'test-case' legal challenge in Europe to prevent employers denying pay increases to staff who refuse to sign personal contracts.

Under the Trade Union Reform Act, which becomes law at the end of the month, employers will be given the right to impose inferior pay and conditions on union members. The measure was introduced as a late amendment after the Court of Appeal ruled that penalising staff for refusing to accept personal contracts was unlawful.

The appeal ruling sprang from cases brought by a Daily Mail journalist and dock workers in Southampton, who had been told they would not get pay increases because they refused to sign personal contracts.

Critics of the amendment, including Peter Bottomley, a former Tory employment minister, claimed the Government was preparing to legislate away an inconvenient court ruling that the practice was illegal.

Condemnation of the move also comes in the agenda for next month's TUC Congress in Brighton, amid fears that the Act will further reduce the scope of collective bargaining.

The Society of Telecom Executives is calling on unions to select 'the most effective case to run as a legal challenge in Europe', with unions raising funds to pay for it.

John Monks, who takes over as TUC general secretary in a fortnight, has warned that growing insecurity in the workplace was contributing to problems in the family and to rising crime rates. He said 'over-mighty employers' were now free to do what they liked, including introducing fixed-term or temporary contracts and part-time work.