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22.09.2022 / Press releases /

Sex workers trade union wins right to enter Judicial Review to oppose strip club ban in edinburgh

  • United Sex Workers (USW), the sex workers branch of United Voices of the World Union (UVW), has won the right to enter a Judicial Review of the City of Edinburgh Council’s (CEC) strip ban club 
  • The Court of Sessions granted the Edinburgh strippers permission to be represented by their trade union in court action. They want to oppose the ban.
  • The same court granted USW a Protective Expenses Order, which prevents the union from being liable for the Council’s legal expenses in the case
  • USW wants to put forward its members’ arguments to the Court as they will be the ones most personally impacted by the decision to close the strip clubs, and risk being either forced into poverty or more dangerous forms of sex work 
  • The Labour-led CEC had tried to block USW/UVW from participating, denying a voice to the workers directly impacted by the council’s ban

USW is delighted that it will be able to put forward its members’ arguments to the Court. They will be the ones most personally impacted by the decision to close the strip clubs from next spring, and risk being either forced into poverty or more dangerous forms of sex work.

The Council tried a very wide range of technical, legalistic arguments against USW’s participation: that USW should not be allowed to represent its members, and that every individual member should have applied for Legal Aid and raised their own, separate proceedings. Considering this would have led to USW members having to publicly disclose their engagement in sex work which could seriously disrupt their personal lives, this position is disappointing coming from any Council, but particularly a Labour-led one. The stripping and sex work industries are often precarious and in need of adequate labour protections and USW fails to understand why a Labour Council would want to stop a union from representing its members in this way.  

The Council also argued that even if members lost their jobs, had to move to another city to work which would result in losing their homes and splitting up their families, this was not a sufficiently severe impact for them to argue they had suffered a breach of their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to respect for private and family life. 

Furthermore, CEC did not run any preliminary arguments against the strip club operators but only against USW in order to keep strippers from being represented directly in court proceedings.  

It is frustrating to see that CEC chose to spend very large sums of public money in a cost-of-living crisis to instruct a team of lawyers to spend almost two and a half days in Court opposing USW’s motions to enter the review and to obtain a Protective Expenses Order. As a result, USW also had to spend a large part of its very limited, crowdfunded budget just to join the action rather than spending it on reviewing the actual decision to close the strip clubs. 

A full Hearing willl take place in the Court of Session on 1 and 2 December 2022.

Solicitor for USW, Rosie Walker of Gilson Gray LLP said:  “My clients are delighted to have been granted permission to join the Judicial Review and to have got a Protective Expenses Order.  It has taken a great deal of hard work just to reach this stage and we now look forward to bringing the dancers’ voices before the Court. The Council’s policy raises important issues of public importance including indirect gender discrimination, violence against women and the right of a Trade Union to represent its members in court.  Closing the strip clubs will have a hugely detrimental impact on the lives of the women who work there. We are delighted that the Court will now hear all the arguments before reaching its decision”

USW organiser, Mina, said: “I’m incredibly relieved that we have reached this point. It’s a massive win that we are now able to contribute to the Judicial Review and explain why we believe a strip club ban to be unlawful but I’m also shocked by the level of antagonism of the Council who seems to have done everything in their power to exclude the voices of strippers – the people who will be most affected – from court proceedings” 

For further information contact the UVW comms team.

Tess (USW): 07417 477624

Cristina: 07548 759340  

Isabel: 07706 987443

Jim: 07749 765264

E-mail: comms@uvwunion.org.uk for UVW and/or usw@uvwunion.org.uk 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. 

Previous UVW press releases and other materials:  

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