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UK trade unions are reporting the government to the UN watchdog on workers’ rights over its new anti-strike laws, saying they fall short of international legal standards.

Paul Nowak, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, announced on Sunday that the group will challenge the legislation at the International Labour Organization.

Unions will vote at the annual TUC conference on Monday on whether to launch a campaign of “non-compliance” with the laws, which will require some employees to work during industrial action.

The government’s legislation, which has been approved by parliament, seeks to enforce minimum levels of service in eight areas of the economy including the NHS.

The measures were drawn up after a wave of industrial action began in the summer of last year, with workers in the public and private sectors demanding higher pay amid the cost of living crisis.

Ministers are imposing minimum service levels on ambulance, fire and rail services through the legislation.

They hope to reach voluntary agreements for the other five areas covered by the laws: education, border security, nuclear decommissioning and other health and transport services.

Nowak said the TUC would lodge its case at the ILO on the basis the government’s “pernicious” legislation “falls far short” of international legal standards.

He added the laws had been drawn up by a government “spoiling for a fight with unions”.

Under the new regime, company bosses would be able to issue a “work notice” to unions making clear which employees would have to continue working during industrial action.

Employees who chose to strike despite having been ordered to work would lose their automatic protection from unfair dismissal.

Arrangements for minimum service levels in certain sectors are in place in some other European countries, although the TUC argues that union rights are stronger in those nations.

According to parliament’s joint committee on human rights, the ILO has accepted that minimum service agreements during industrial action may be justifiable.

But that is only if the agreements relate to important public services or will prevent a national crisis, or harm to the public, said the committee.

TUC delegates will be asked to vote on a motion calling for non-compliance with the anti-strike laws that has been put forward by the RMT rail union and NASUWT teaching union.

The motion is expected to be approved, and would require the TUC to hold a special conference “to explore options for non-compliance and resistance”. It would also compel the TUC to urge employers to help render minimum service levels “inoperable”.

One union official stressed this did not mean members would break the law in any way.

A government spokeswoman said the anti-strike legislation was designed to protect the lives and livelihoods of the public, and ensure they could access vital public services during disruptive strikes.

“The legislation does not remove the ability to strike, but people expect the government to act in circumstances where their rights and freedoms are being disproportionately impacted, and that’s what we are doing with this bill,” she added.

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