Plans by the Amicus and Transport and General Workers unions to extend the Peugeot boycott campaign to the airwaves have been halted by a relatively new UK law that specifically forbids trade unions from mentioning employers or industrial disputes.

Government spokesmen for three agencies involved in radio advertising have confirmed that the Communications Act 2003 prohibits "certain kinds of advertising deemed to be political". They did not contradict claims the union made in a statement on Monday.

The unions said their radio ad, featuring voices of well-known UK TV actors, would have had a similar theme to recent posters and newspaper ads which ask car buyers to "Think of England" and support Peugeot workers whose jobs at PSA's Ryton 206 car plant are either already gone or doomed from mid-2007. The company recently axed a late shift.

The unions claimed section 15 of the Radio Advertising Standards code limits trade unions to advertising their services to members and expressly prevents them from making statements about disputes or from stating facts about employers.

They are prevented (under the 2003 act) from airing ads that could "influence attitudes" to "publicly controversial" events, a Radio Advertising Clearance Centre source told just-auto.com.

The unions added that the ad that was to run four times a day on various independent radio stations throughout August will now not be broadcast.

They plan "a day of action" on Saturday 15 July when union members will demonstrate and distribute leaflets outside Peugeot dealerships in the UK.

Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson said in the statement: "It is outrageous that trade unions are prevented from explaining to the public the simple fact that Peugeot have sacked 2,000 people from a profitable plant in the Coventry in search of ever greater profits by exploiting low wages in eastern Europe.

"We want to give consumers who are interested in making ethical car purchases the information they need to do this. They need to know how Peugeot have behaved but we can't tell them. Amicus will raise this injustice with the government at the highest level."

A union spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Also in the statement, T&G general secretary Tony Woodley said: "The public need to know we are fighting back with our members in Peugeot against the closure of a profitable car plant. They need to know the unions have put forward positive plans to save the factory which Peugeot has ignored. And the public need to know there is support from industry experts and, now, show business for our campaign. The law has gagged us from saying this on the radio, but we'll say it all the same."

The rules say trade unions may advertise, provided the advertising is not politically or industrially contentious. They may recruit members and also promote the services they provide, such as legal advice, insurance and meetings. They may not advertise for support in a ballot, nor refer to particular employers.

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