Image by niekverlaan from Pixabay

1. Introduction

In an important trade union law case, Mercer v Alternative Future Group Limited, the President of the EAT has found that s.146 Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (‘TULRCA 1992’) can be read to include claims about suspending and disciplining individual union members by reason of participation in industrial action. 

This case brings UK law for the protection of striking workers into line with Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’).  It marks an important step in recognising an individual worker’s right to strike.  It is hoped that it will stop employers who adopt the common tactic of suspending or disciplining those who participate in union-organised strikes or who withdraw discretionary benefits from striking workers.

2. Domestic legal position to date

Until the EAT’s judgment on 2 June 2021, there have been relatively few legal claims for trade union members in the UK who are subject to action short of dismissal owing to their participation in official industrial action.

Two novel types of claims have been considered as potentially available: firstly, under s.146 TULRCA 1992; and secondly, where a prohibited ‘blacklist’ has been assembled under the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010

The claims in this case are only about the scope of rights under s.146 TULRCA 1992, as a claim about a blacklist may only help if the individual is on a relevant list.  The scope of protections for striking workers who claim to have been blacklisted is due to be heard by the EAT in September 2021 in Morais and others v Ryanair DAC (ET Case No. 3200429/2020 and others).

The current version of s.146 TULRCA 1992 materially provides the following

(1) A worker has the right not to be subjected to any detriment as an individual by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer if the act or failure takes place for the sole or main purpose of

(b) preventing or deterring him from taking part in the activities of an independent trade union at an appropriate time, or penalising him for doing so.

The problem for workers who claim to have been disciplined after participating in official industrial action is because of the words ‘at an appropriate time’.  The phrase means outside the individual’s normal working hours (ie the worker’s own time) or within working hours at which the worker is permitted by the employer to take part in the trade union activities.  The activities of an independent trade union seem, on their nature meaning, to include organising and participating in industrial action, but the obstacle is the definition of ‘at an appropriate time’.  Such activities will not include unofficial (or ‘wildcat’) industrial action that has not been authorised or endorsed by the relevant union.

For industrial action to be an effective strategy for the union and its members and to impose pressure on the employer, it will most likely take place when members are supposed to be working.  But as the employer will never consent to the industrial action, it cannot take place ‘at an appropriate time’.  For the striking worker, it means the activities fall outside the scope of protections that might apply to other types of trade union activities under s.146 TULRCA 1992.  This point is relevant to claims about unfair dismissal too, as the same definition of trade union activities ‘at an appropriate time’ can be found in s.152 TULRCA 1992.  For example, see earlier EAT judgments in Winnett v Seamarks Brothers Limited [1978] IRLR 387 andBritool Limited v Roberts [1993] IRLR 481.

It is worth pausing for a moment to consider the domestic legislative history (detailed in the EAT judgment at §80, adopted from the skeleton argument for the Appellant) that explains the provenance of s.146 TULRCA 1992.  There is a distinction with protection against unfair dismissal for trade union activities and industrial action in TULRCA 1992.  For an example of how the latter is sometimes viewed, see the comments of Underhill P (as he then was) in Sehmi and Sandhu v Gate Gourmet London Limited [2009] IRLR 807, at §12: ‘…Dismissals in the context of industrial action are sometimes – for reasons both practical and legal – carried out in a “shoot first and ask questions later” basis.’ 

Essentially, as confirmed in the EAT judgment of Choudhury P, this history shows separate streams of protection provided which later came together the same current consolidating Act.

The Industrial Relations Act 1971 (‘IRA 1971’) introduced the right for workers to protection against an ‘unfair industrial practice’.  In particular, s.5(1)(2) IRA 1971 gave workers the right to take part in the activities of an independent trade union ‘at an appropriate time’ and made it an ‘unfair industrial practice’ for an employer to (i) prevent or deter a worker from exercising such rights or (ii) to dismiss or penalise a worker for doing so.  The definition of ‘at an appropriate time’ in s.5 IRA 1971 was very similar to what we have currently in s.146 TULRCA 1992. 

The driver for introducing s.5 IRA 1971 was the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations chaired by Lord Donavon that reported on its inquiry into UK collective employment law in 1968.  The ‘Donavon Report’ is often viewed as a watershed moment in UK trade union law.  In summary, the government was advised that the law should be changed to make it consistent with ILO Convention 98 (‘ILO C-98’), ratified by the UK in 1950.

Specifically, it will be remembered that ILO C-98 provides as follows:

Article 1

1. Workers shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment.

2. Such protection shall apply more particularly in respect of acts calculated to –


(b) cause the dismissal of or otherwise prejudice a worker by reason of union membership or because of participation in union activities outside working hours, or with the consent of the employer, within working hours.

The right under s.5 IRA 1971 was intended to protect against sanctions imposed against workers in order to echo Article 1(2)(b) ILO C-98.  In addition, the IRA 1971 also introduced protections from unfair dismissal under ss.22-33 IRA 1971 but excluded those who were dismissed for taking part in industrial action.  These unfair dismissal protections were subsequently repealed and re-enacted with some amendments by the Trade Union Labour Relations Act 1974 (‘TULRA 1974’). 

There was no re-enactment, however, of an individual right to protection against employers taking action short of dismissal to prevent or deter an individual taking part in the activities of a trade union.  It was removed by TULRA 1974 and did not return until s.53 Employment Protection Act 1975 (‘EPA 1975’).  This provided a different format to the original right, but most importantly, there was the same definition of ‘at an appropriate time’ in s.53(2) EPA 1975 to that used in s.5 IRA 1971. 

The legislative history was not considered in Drew v St Edmundsbury Borough Council [1980] ICR 153 where the EAT found that all participation in industrial action fell outside the predecessor to s.152 TULRCA 1992, regardless of whether it took place during or outside working hours. This judgment led most commentators to assume the same jurisprudence applied to s.146 TULRCA 1992, so that there was a blanket exclusion on protection for taking part in any industrial action.

Two further important changes came about after Drew.  Firstly, through the introduction of s.238A TULRCA 1992 giving a right not to be unfairly dismissed for taking part in ‘protected’ industrial action (see s.5 Employment Relations Act 1999); and secondly, the extension of the right in s.146 to the wider category of ‘workers’ after legislative changes (see s.31 Employment Relations Act 2004) that followed the seminal judgment of the ECtHR in Wilson v UK [2002] IRLR 568.  The reason for this second change was, according to the Government, to bring UK law into line with Article 11 ECHR.

3. Developing importance of ECtHR caselaw

Wilson provided a clear warning to the UK that the existing legislative protections for taking part in union activities were inadequate.  It showed that, following the incorporation of the ECHR through the HRA 1998, the compatibility of UK law with the caselaw on Article 11 ECHR would become an issue.  Importantly, due to the interpretative duty in s.3, the HRA 1998 introduced a way in which domestic legislation can be read in order to comply with the requirements of the ECHR.

The scope of rights to freedom of association under Article 11 ECHR remains elusive to capture.  Personally, my favourite view is the way Tom Bingham described it:

“The right can, however, be recognized as an important one, for two reasons in particular.  First, man is a social animal, and for very many people the living of a contented and fulfilled life depends on the company and support of others, which they should not therefore be denied the opportunity to seek.  Secondly, freedom of both assembly and association has a democratic, political dimension, enabling individuals collectively to publicize and campaign for the causes they believe in more effectively than any of them could hope to do on their own.”

Tom Bingham, ‘The Rule of Law’, page 80.  Published by Penguin Books, 2011

For present purposes, the relevant caselaw begins with the ECtHR’s decision in Ezelin v France (App No. 11800/85, 26 April 1991), where a barrister was subject to a disciplinary warning for participation in a public demonstration.  The ECtHR held that Article 11 ECHR fell to be considered in light of Article 10 ECHR.  It also found the freedom to take part in a peaceful assembly ‘… cannot be restricted in any way … so long as the person concerned does not himself commit any reprehensible act on such an occasion.’ 

While Ezelin did not concern a strike, its approach was followed by subsequent ECtHR cases concerning disciplinary action imposed on individuals for participation in union-organised industrial action.  It is the touchstone on how the limitation of the rights under Articles 10 and 11 ECHR are viewed by the ECtHR and has been referred to in later cases concerned with sanctions imposed on strikers.  Furthermore, these decisions are to be viewed through the lens of the ‘integrated approach’ towards other human rights’ instruments adopted by the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR in Demir and Baykara v Turkey [2009] IRLR 766, particularly at §67, §75, §77 and §§85-86. 

In summary, the ECtHR concluded in Demir that in defining the meaning of terms and notions in the ECHR, it can and must take into account elements of international law and the consensus emerging from specialised international instruments and the contracting states.  Therefore, it was possible to invite the EAT to consider the wider international human rights law, such as ILO Convention C-98 (see above) and the European Social Charter.  Article 5 of the European Social Charter  provides: ‘… national law shall not be such as to impair, nor shall it be so applied as to impair, this freedom. …

Unfortunately, some relevant ECtHR judgments are only available in French.  UNISON therefore instructed expert legal interpreters to translate them in readiness for the employment tribunal proceedings. 

In Karaçay v Turkey (App No. 6615/03, 27 June 2007 in French only), the claim involved a warning issued for participation in a one-day strike organised by the individual’s trade union.  Citing the decision in Ezelin, the ECtHR held the sanction, however minimal, was disproportionate because it was liable to deter legitimate participation in union-organised industrial action.  Importantly, the ECtHR doubted there was any legitimate purpose to justify the interference.

The analysis in Karaçay has been consistently followed in later cases which all speak with one voice: any form of sanction on individual strikers interferes with Article 11 ECHR.  For example, in Kaya and Sehan v Turkey (App No. 30946/04, 15 September 2009 in French only), a warning issued to two union members who participated in union-organised industrial action was found a disproportionate invasion of the effective enjoyment of freedom of association.  In Ognevenko v Russia  [2019] IRLR 195, at §83, the ECtHR endorsed the judgments in Ezelinand Karaçay on the basis that disciplinary sanctions ‘… inevitably had a “chilling effect” on trade union members taking part in industrial action.’ 

With the current legal position in mind, different legal commentators have said that the UK law probably falls short of the protections required for striking workers under Article 11 ECHR. So really, the question for many who work in trade union law, is why has it taken this long to get such a decision?

One answer is probably that most saw the ruling in Drew and the definition of ‘an appropriate time’ in s.146 TULRCA 1992 as insurmountable obstacles.  Another, however, is that the stream of ECtHR caselaw is a recent emergence and many of the decisions are only in French. A third difficulty was the perception that the ECtHR caselaw had accorded a wide ‘margin of appreciation’ to the UK.  

The margin of appreciation for UK industrial action law was considered relatively recently.  The ECtHR held in RMT v UK [2014] IRLR 467 that the UK’s ban on secondary action must correspond to (i) a ‘pressing social need’ (ii) be justified by relevant and sufficient reasons and (iii) be proportionate to the legitimate aim.  Importantly, however, the ECtHR held the right to take action against an employer who is not party to the dispute was a secondary aspect of the right to strike.  It found there is a wider margin of appreciation in such cases involving ‘collective’ aspects, drawing a clear distinction with cases such as Karaçaywhich suggest a vanishingly small margin of appreciation in cases that involve individual sanctions.  It expressly endorsed Karaçayand held that a ‘lesser’ margin of appreciation is recognised if a legislative provision ‘strikes at the core of trade union activity’ (see §87).  Putting this into the context of the facts in Mercer, it seems difficult to conceptualise a case that strikes more deeply to the core of trade union activity than sanctions imposed on a worker and trade union representative for their participation in strike action.

Another potential barrier to legal claims arises from the fact that most of these ECtHR cases involve public sector workers.  However, the ECtHR’s judgment in Tek Gida v Turkey (App No. 35009/015, 4 July 2017) is important to show there is no material difference in the positive obligation of the State to address concerns about Article 11 ECHR and its duty not directly to interfere with workers’ rights.  This supplements the overarching point that the State owes a positive obligation to secure the effective enjoyment of rights for individuals (including civil remedies) under Article 11 ECHR through effective and clear judicial protection suggested in Wilsonand Danilenkov v Russia (App No. 67336/01, 10 December 2009).

Finally, there is an argument to be addressed of whether Article 11 ECHR would prevent an employer from deducting proportionate pay for strike action, raised by the employer in Mercer as an unacceptable consequence of Article 11 ECHR.  This is a red herring.  The point has not been referred to in ECtHR caselaw, but both the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association and the European Committee of  Social Rights  (relevant due to the ‘integrated approach’ adopted by the ECtHR in Demir) consider salary deductions for days of strike action give rise to no objection from the right to freedom of association.  Article 11 ECHR therefore only protects against forms of sanction, such as disciplinary action, which go beyond deducting pay for the period of the strike

4. Strike breakers and the claims of FM

Any experienced trade union organiser will likely have a story to tell about the way in which their members suffered victimisation by a rogue employer because of participating in strike action.  Most examples will not be overt and often fall into disputed factual territory about whether the employer argues the reason for the conduct complained about was in fact something else, such as the individual’s conduct or capability.

A relatively recent high-profile example involved British Airways cabin crew who were members of Unite the union and participated in industrial action in 2010 and subsequently suffered the removal of non-contractual travel concessions until the dispute settled on 1 July 2011.  The ECtHR dismissed the subsequent claim of Roffey and others v United Kingdom (App. No. 1278/11) as ‘manifestly inadmissible’ for being out of time, despite this being a point that neither the Court raised in its Statement of Facts, nor the UK government’s written Observations.  Some leading trade union law experts have suggested that it seemed to swerve engagement with the central point on whether UK workers who took industrial action lacked protection against the imposition of the sanction.  It also raised questions about how domestic courts might engage with the issues.

Fiona Mercer (‘FM’) is a support worker and member of UNISON.  The work involves providing care to vulnerable service users on day and night shifts and FM has been employed by the employer (‘AFG’) since 2009.  It is important to note that the case is only being decided at this stage on assumed facts.

UNISON is a trade union recognised by AFG for collective bargaining.  A trade dispute began between UNISON and AFG in relation to the removal of ‘top up’ payments for sleep-in shifts.  Throughout the dispute FM participated in trade union activities which included the planning of the proposed industrial action of UNISON members. 

In the grounds of complaint to her ET1 claim form, FM asserted that her claims under s.146(1)(b) TULRCA 1992 must be read in conjunction with her rights under Article 11 ECHR. 

The solicitors for AFG explained in its grounds of resistance that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to consider a claim for detrimental treatment by reason of participation in lawful industrial action.  It was also submitted that s.146 TULRCA 1992 cannot be construed to give effect to FM’s rights under Article 11 ECHR.  Therefore, it came as little surprise that a Preliminary Hearing took place on 8 April 2020 to determine this discrete part of the case and whether it should be struck out on the basis that it had no reasonable prospect of success.

Employment Judge Franey (as he then was) decided the issue on relevant assumed facts and took into account that it was conceded for AFG that the planning or organising of industrial action could fall within the scope of trade union activities for the purposes of a claim under s.146 TULRCA 1992.  EJ Franey held, however, that he was bound by Drewunder domestic law.  Importantly, he went on find that Article 11 ECHR was engaged and must be considered in light of relevant ECtHR cases that illustrated imposing a detriment on a worker because of participation in industrial action was impermissible.  However, EJ Franey went on to decide that this was one of the exceptional cases where a compliant construction of domestic law was not possible under s.3 HRA 1998.  Therefore, he struck out this part of FM’s claims

5. EAT hearing and decision

Shortly before the EAT hearing on 6 May 2021, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (‘BEIS’) was given permission to intervene on the proceedings. 

The central issues for the appeal were:

  1. Whether the tribunal erred in law in concluding that Article 11 ECHR protects workers (such as FM) who are subjected to disciplinary investigation or some other forms of disciplinary action for the purpose of penalising or deterring them from engaging in lawful industrial action?
  2. And if so, whether it is possible to interpret s.146 TULRCA 1992 so as to make it compatible with Article 11 ECHR under the duty in s.3 HRA 1998?

By the conclusion of the hearing, it seemed apparent that the principal challenge was really about the second issue and whether (or how) the domestic provisions could be interpreted to comply with Article 11 ECHR.

The judgment handed down on 2 June 2021 found the following:

  • It would be artificial to suggest that a strike that is organised and called by a trade union is not one of its own activities – §27
  • The only reason for declining to follow Drew would be if the interpretative duty under s.3 HRA 1998 required it – §29
  • It was necessary to consider Article 11 ECHR and relevant ECtHR case law to decide whether s.146 TULRCA 1992 must be read differently – §30
  • The right to take industrial action, and more specifically to strike, although not an ‘essential element’ of the Article 11 ECHR right, is ‘clearly protected’ by it – §33
  • Based on the cases cited by UNISON, the ECtHR regards any restriction, however minimal, on the right to participate in a trade union-sanctioned protest or strike action as amounting to an interference with rights under Article 11 ECHR – §43
  • The ECtHR’s view is that the wider margin of appreciation does not apply to all restrictions that might be imposed in respect of any trade union activity; measures directed at primary or direct industrial action do not attract the same wide margin, and the domestic case on the balloting rules, Metrobus v Unite the union  [2010] ICR 173, needs to be viewed in that light – §49
  • The margin of appreciation is narrower in cases such as this where it is alleged that there is a lack of protection in respect of participation in direct industrial action – §52
  • The UK’s positive obligation is engaged ‘in any case’ if the matters complained of resulted from a failure to secure Article 11 ECHR rights – §54
  • A worker could not legitimately claim to have a justified sense of grievance in not being paid for the time spent on strike action and so would not be able to assert any detriment at all – §61. This disposed of the argument for BEIS and the employer about a potentially unacceptable consequence of finding in favour of FM.
  • In its current form, s.146 TULRCA 1992 failed to satisfy the test of justification in Article 11(2) ECHR or, in its domestic form, the first proportionality hurdle in Bank Mellat v HM Treasury (No.2)   [2014] AC 700. In particular, once it was accepted that Article 11 ECHR did not prohibit proportionate deductions of pay for strikes, there was no evidence of any objective to show it was necessary to exclude industrial action from its scope – §65
  • There was little in UK law to deter the employer at all from imposing sanctions short of dismissal for participating in industrial action. Such sanctions, whether these amount to a suspension, disciplinary warning, removal of privileges, or otherwise, could dissuade workers from exercising their trade union rights or amount to punishment for having done so – §67
  • In the circumstances, for the purpose of Article 11 ECHR, a fair balance has not been struck between the competing interests of workers seeking to exercise their trade union rights and those of the employer and the community as a whole. There was therefore a violation of Article 11 ECHR – §68
  • The inconsistency that might arise between s.146 and s.152 TULRCA 1992 if the former were interpreted so as to include industrial action is not reason enough to reject that interpretation – §75. Choudhury P accepted UNISON’s submission that, under s.3 HRA 1998, it was permissible to interpret the same words in the same statute differently.  The domestic rule of construction, by which the same words are presumed to bear the same meaning, was displaced by the duty in s.3 HRA 1998.
  • There was nothing to suggest that the ‘grain’ of the legislation is to exclude protection against detriment for those participating in industrial action – §82.  On the contrary, a close examination of the history showed that Parliament never intended to exclude industrial action from s.146 TULRCA 1992, and since 2004, the grain of the legislation has been to be compliant with Article 11 ECHR.
  • In that light, a  new sub-paragraph (c) could and should be added to the definition of ‘an appropriate time’ in s.146(2) TULRCA 1992 as follows: ‘(c) a time within working hours when he is taking part in industrial action’. This will ensure that employees are not deterred, by the imposition of detriments, from exercising their right to participate in strike action – §§86 and 90
  • It is not going against the grain to interpret s.146 TULRCA 1992 as proposed, and the Tribunal erred in concluding otherwise – §93

6. Implications and importance

There are many significant points to consider because, until now, no-one thought you could challenge disciplinary action and other types of common strike-breaking conduct which targeted individuals. 

Some expert commentators have called into question whether this case is the beginning of an evolution in the way individual rights to strike are protected. 

Personally speaking, I would whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment and see this case as a very important extension to the panoply of rights available to workers.  The judgment of the EAT effectively reverses older cases and it is the first case of its kind in the UK.  In my view, this case provides a clear basis for other workers to be protected where they are disciplined after participation in their trade union’s industrial action.

But such protection is limited to those employed as a ‘worker’.  Identifying those workers, distinct from other types of persons atypically employed, in order to decide whether they might be permitted to pursue similar claims to FM now involves some uncertainty when considering Uber BV and others v Aslam and others [2021] UKSC 5 and the Court of Appeal’s judgment in IWGB v (1) CAC (2) Roofoods Limited t/a Deliveroo [2021] EWCA Civ 952.

Other experts suggest that the new s.146(2)(c) TULRCA 1992 is too wide and will invite claims about deductions of wages after strike action. 

I respectfully disagree with this sentiment for the reasons explained above.  Although additional sanctions are not permissible, the rights under ECHR don’t seem to prevent proportionate deductions from wages for those workers who participate in union-organised industrial action.  There is nothing to suggest that Parliament intended to set out the current limitation and, if anything, the legislative history suggests the contrary: namely, a positive intention for UK law to comply with Article 11 ECHR.

From a wider trade union perspective, the judgment is welcome to address arguments that a Convention compliant interpretation of s.146 TULRCA 1992 is not possible because of Drew or Metrobus.  It deals with the point that ‘the right to strike’ is just a slogan in the UK and gives new impetus to Article 11 ECHR in reshaping domestic law on industrial action. 

For the neutral observer of UK labour law, perhaps the greatest resonance is from how the EAT held the ‘narrow’ margin of appreciation applies?  In the context of Article 11 ECHR, the ECtHR’s decision in RMT is often misunderstood to mean the Court applying a wide margin of appreciation in all cases where UK law is silent.  The EAT’s findings on this point seem to be significant for understanding the ‘grain’ of the legislative intention too.

Or could the most significant implications arise from the way in which the EAT agreed that the same phrase (‘at an appropriate time’) must be read differently at different sections of the same primary legislation due to the scope of the duties under s.3 HRA 1998?  The subject is not without controversy at a time when the current government wishes to revisit (again) how the HRA 1998 is to be used in future.  But the EAT judgment is entirely correct under domestic law: it applies and follows the Marleasing  approach, which the House of Lords decided in  R (Hurst) v London Northern District Coroner  [2007] 2 AC 189 could mean that s.3 HRA 1998 required interpreting the same words differently depending on whether the ECHR is engaged or not.  While this sounds odd to traditional ears, Mercer is just another example of ‘dealing with a situation that is odd in juristic terms’ that was identified by Lord Brown (at §52) in Hurst, citing Bennion on Statutory Interpretation from nearly 20 years ago.

There are also some potentially far-reaching questions from what the EAT did not deal with in its judgment.  For example, whether an employer can still sue for damages sustained during the industrial action?  This was a point considered by the employment tribunal (referring to Dilek and others v Turkey   (App No. 74611/01, 30 January 2008 in French only) but was not decided upon by the EAT.  The case concerned civil servant toll booth operators who left their booths for three hours to protest against working conditions, allowing motorists to pass through without paying.  The workers were ordered to pay 8,800 Euros to compensate for losses sustained by the employer but the ECtHR held this was a disproportionate interference which was not necessary in a democratic society.  Mercer suggests that s.146 TULRCA 1992, interpreted in light of Article 11 ECHR, may present a means of effectively reversing cases such as National Coal Board v Galley [1958] 1 WLR 16, in which striking miners were sued for damages.

For me, the most fascinating aspect of the judgment is the way in which the true intention of these core trade union rights was revealed.  This is testament to the expert leading and junior counsel instructed for the Appellant and their craftsmanship in mastering the labyrinthine web of UK trade union law.  The evidence on this (or lack thereof) for the intervener perhaps highlights the range of challenges in grappling with this most sensitive and complicated area of law.

7. Conclusion

Given the breadth and scope of the EAT’s judgment on how Article 11 ECHR and ECtHR jurisprudence must be applied to UK law, Mercer is surely one of the most important trade union law cases in recent times, addressing a loophole that existed for too long on strike-breaking. 

However, in an unusual turn of events, and despite the employer deciding against an appeal, BEIS has sought permission from the Court of Appeal to challenge the EAT’s judgment.  Therefore, the significance of this development in trade union law will depend on whether the EAT’s remarkable judgment is endorsed, modified or overturned in future. 

I am grateful to the Co-Editors of UK Labour Law Blog for their support and constructive suggestions.  I also wish to thank Shantha David, Ben Patrick (both of UNISON Legal Services) and Neil Todd of Thompsons Solicitors LLP for their helpful comments on earlier drafts. 

Bruce Robin is a Legal Officer and In-House solicitor for UNISON.  Bruce was called to the Bar in 2005 and cross-qualified as a solicitor in 2013.  Before joining UNISON in 2019, Bruce spent more than 10 years at Thompsons working in employment and trade union law.

(Suggested citation: B Robin, ‘Protection for striking workers: is there an end to the UK anomaly because of Mercer v Alternative Futures Group Protection? – by Bruce Robin’ UK Labour Law Blog, 23 July 2021, available at