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The UK Government has declared that industrial strike action is not a fundamental social right, The Lawyer has learnt.
The assertion came during submissions at a European Court of Justice (ECJ) hearing last Thursday (11 January), where the Finnish Seaman's Union (FSU) was appealing against an injunction preventing any action against ferry line Viking.
At the hearing 14 EU member states were quizzed on their opinions as to whether industrial action is a fundamental right. The UK, which instructed David Anderson QC from Brick Court Chambers, was the only state to believe that picketing is not an essential entitlement.
Denton Wilde Sapte European Community competition lawyer Caroline Thomas, who assisted partner Jonathan Tatten for the FSU, said: "The UK Government went out on a limb. Even the new states, which are for any kind of rules that allow easier freedom of movement, would not go as far as saying that."
The ECJ ruling is expected to be made within three months. The possible consequence if the FSU loses is that unions would lose the domestic social right to strike within the EU.
Viking instructed solicitors Ross & Co and Mark Hoskins from Brick Court. The FSU's counsel was led by Mark Brealey QC, also of Brick Court.