Today, NEU members employed their section 44 rights collectively to stay out of unsafe workplaces.

While other Unions refused to give similar advice to their members, the NEU informed members of their right to protect themselves from unsafe working conditions under section 44 of the ERA, 1996. This right protects against any detriment for refusing to attend work “in circumstances of serious and imminent danger they could not reasonably avoid”, while section 100 protects against any unlawful dismissal.

Although there are tricky issues around inducement, and the anti-trade union ecosystem of British law, the circumstances of this new variant (and the definition of Covid-19 as a “serious and imminent danger” under the Coronavirus Act, 2020) mean it would be perverse for an ET to rule against a member for using their statutory rights, or a Union for informing them of said rights.

If a Union cannot inform their members about how to defend themselves, then it is no longer worthy of the name. Unions have protections under Articles 10 & 11 of the HRA, 1998 to freedom of expression and association that would be frustrated by this ultra-Conservative reading of part V of the TULRCA.

As well as developing a healthy scepticism for the law’s ability to defend working people, IWW members should see that a Union that sends members into dangerous workplaces – cowing to legal prohibitions designed to kneecap the Labour movement – is no Union at all.

The IWW will support members employing their statutory rights not to work in an unsafe workplace, or suffer detriment or unfair dismissal for doing so.

Show solidarity with the NEU, an injury to one is an injury to all.


education [at] iww [dot] org [dot] uk

london.organiser [at] iww [dot] org [dot] uk