Sunday, October 18, 2009

Labour betraying agency workers

The government turns its back on the Agency Workers' Directive.

With last week's Tory conference was peppered with proposals coming straight from the Thatcherite book, Labour was handed a slight chance to make up some lost ground. Instead, they've just scored another massive electoral own goal.

This weekend, in fact, to the cheers from the CBI and other employers' organisations, Labour announced they're backtracking on their promises to finally adopt the European Working Directive, a set of measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable workers in Britain while, at the same time, preventing full-time staff being undercut by cheap agency recruits.

The government has now said that the Agency Workers Directive will not be implemented until October 2011, meaning that it will be left to the whim of the next Tory government - meaning, in turn, that it will probably be scrapped.

Aimed at 1.3 million agency workers in Britain, the Directive intended to introduce equal treatment on basic pay, redundancy rights, breaks, maternity, holiday entitlements and time off. This would have covered agency workers after 12 weeks on a given jobs -ending the current discrimination between casual and 'direct' workers.

More and more firms are in fact gradually replacing permanent staff with agency workers, as the latter are automatically on the back foot: cheaper to hire and instantly sackable, with no redundancy rights and not even the right to a written statement of their contract. A recent study by the TUC confirmed what everybody already knew: that "temps" are by far the worst treated workers in the country.

It was a chance to mark a clear difference between those who support tax cuts for millionaire heirs and those who defend the most exploited, precarious and vulnerable workers in the country. Labour missed it.


Elaine Higgleton said...

The most irritating reply you get from the employers' group is that the Directive placed a "burden" on businesses as it allegedly makes it more expensive to hire casual staff.

But what they don't mention is that the Directive would only come into place after 12 weeks, which is 4 months. And if you need staff solidly for a period of over four months then it means they're not casuals. It means that "flexibility" is used as an excuse to save money at the expense of workers.

In which case, you need to treat them the same as people on permanent contracts.

This could have changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers. While I expected no better from the Conservatives, shame on Labour.

socialist sam said...

Interesting how 48hrs later this is the only blog raising the subject. Hats off to you, but how sad that this is not even minor news in the country.