10.08.2022 / Press releases /

UVW fights Labour-led council over attempts to block sex workers’ trade union from strip club ban judicial review

  • United Sex Workers (USW), the sex worker’s branch of United Voices of the World union (UVW), has submitted a court application to be part of a judicial review of the strip club ban by the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC)

  • The Labour-led CEC is trying to block USW/UVW from participating, denying a voice to the workers directly impacted by the council’s ban

  • This move follows a successful USW campaign against the closure of strip clubs in Bristol. This is the first time a council has voted on a nil-cap, on whether to stop licences being granted to strip clubs, and decided not to introduce one.

Lawyers for USW, the sex workers’ branch of UVW union, have applied to the Court of Session on the union’s behalf to be part of a judicial review of the CEC’s decision to ban strip clubs. The CEC has opposed that application and the Labour-led administration will ask the court not to allow the union to participate. 

The CEC is opposing the right for workers impacted by the ban to participate in the court’s review. Denying USW’s participation means the review could go ahead without the voices of workers being heard.

USW ran a successful two-year campaign in Bristol to keep the strip clubs open in the city, culminating at the end of July with the city’s Council, voting 10-1 against a proposed ban.

At the moment, the petition to review the CEC’s ban focuses only on the viewpoint of the operators of strip clubs and while USW agrees with all of them it wants to ensure the perspective and rights of directly affected dancers are also heard in court.

USW wants to be able to put forward arguments against the ban including that the nil-cap is indirect gender discrimination against women who make up the vast majority of strippers under the Equality Act 2010, and that it interferes with their Article 8 right to respect for private and family life under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The CEC is also trying to stop sex workers from putting their case before the court by insisting that their union is potentially liable for CEC’s legal costs. UVW has applied for a ‘Protective Expenses Order’ (PEO). That would allow the Union to participate in the review without the risk of being found liable for legal expenses which could be over £100,000. CEC have opposed this application too, arguing the union should be liable for CEC’s costs if the review is not successful. The union, which represents low-paid workers, has already had to raise over £20,000 in donations to launch the judicial review.

Suzi, an Edinburgh stripper and UVW member, said:

“Our voices need to be heard! We expect a Labour-led council to be leading by example when it comes to consulting workers, not denying us a say. This decision goes against all the principles of the labour movement. If the council is so certain about the lawfulness of the cap, why not let UVW and those of us affected take part in the judicial review?”

Layla, a Bristol stripper and UVW member, said:

“With a large percentage of unionised workers, we were able to work collectively to mobilise a highly publicised response to a nil cap consultation and shift various councillors’ opinions on the issue. We stand in solidarity with Edinburgh dancers and will work with them to have this horrific ruling overturned”

Danielle Worden, legal caseworker for UVW, said:

“The Council’s opposition to our application to simply just participate in the challenge demonstrates how desperate they are to block the workers most affected from having a voice. This is shocking conduct from a Labour-led Council that supposedly cares about workers’ rights. We are confident that this desperation is due to the Council knowing the nil-cap is unequivocally discriminatory and unlawful, as demonstrated by Bristol Council’s recent refusal to impose a nil-cap.”

For further information contact the UVW comms team.

Jim: 07749 765264
Cristina: 07548 759340  

E-mail: for UVW and/or for USW

Notes for editors

On the 31 March 2022, Edinburgh City Council voted in favor of a ‘nil-cap’ on ‘Sexual Entertainment Venue’ (known as SEVs) licenses – effectively shutting all Edinburgh strip clubs as of April 2023 and forbidding any new ones to open. The consequences of this for workers, including strippers, bar staff, and security, will be devastating. 

This nil-cap is a result of one of the several SEV consultations that have taken place across the UK where workers’ voices have been completely ignored. It leaves hundreds of precarious workers unemployed during a time of unprecedented financial insecurity and rising living costs. 

Nil-caps are plainly unlawful as they discriminate against women and other marginalised groups, such as people with disabilities and migrants, who make up the majority of strippers. If Councils continue to adopt them, the consequences for workers across the UK will be devastating.

United Voices of the World is an anti-racist, member-led, direct action, campaigning trade union and we exist to support and empower the most vulnerable groups of precarious, low-paid and predominantly BAME and migrant workers in the UK. We fight the bosses through direct action on the streets and through the courts and demand that all members receive at least the London Living Wage, full pay, sick pay, dignity, equality and respect.

USW, a member-led branch of UVW representing workers in the sex industry, ran a successful two year campaign in Bristol to keep the strip clubs open in the city, culminating at the end of July with the council, voting 10-1 against a proposed ban. 

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