The Government has announced that it wants to change law regarding agency workers which would allow businesses to supply them to plug staffing gaps during strikes.

This move comes as tens of thousands of railway workers stage a second strike in a bitter dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Ministers pointed out that under current trade union laws, employment businesses are restricted from supplying temporary agency workers to cover for strikers, saying it can have a “disproportionate impact”.

The legislation will repeal the “burdensome” legal restrictions, giving businesses impacted by strike action the freedom to tap into the services of employment businesses that can provide skilled, temporary agency staff at short notice, said the Government.

It would also help mitigate against the impact of future strikes, such as those seen on the railways this week, by allowing trained, temporary workers to carry out crucial roles to keep trains moving, said ministers.

News Shopper: The RMT's strike this week has caused chaos for train services (PA)The RMT's strike this week has caused chaos for train services (PA) (Image: PA)

They gave examples of skilled temporary workers being able to fill vacant positions such as train dispatchers.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the changes are made through a statutory instrument and are set to come into force over the coming weeks and will apply across England, Scotland and Wales.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Once again trade unions are holding the country to ransom by grinding crucial public services and businesses to a halt. The situation we are in is not sustainable.

“Repealing these 1970s-era restrictions will give businesses freedom to access fully skilled staff at speed, all while allowing people to get on with their lives uninterrupted to help keep the economy ticking.”

In response to this TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government should be getting people around the table to find a fair resolution to this rail dispute.

News Shopper: Thousands of train services have been cancelled this week (PA)Thousands of train services have been cancelled this week (PA)

“But ministers are more interested in cynically picking a fight with unions than reaching a negotiated settlement.

“Having slammed P&O for replacing experienced workers with agency staff, Grant Shapps is using the same playbook.

“These plans are a deliberate attempt to undermine the right to strike and to reduce workers’ bargaining power."

Additionally, the Government also announced it is raising the maximum damages that courts can award against a union, when strike action has been found by the court to be unlawful.

For the biggest unions, the maximum award will rise from £250,000 to £1 million.