January 30, 2007 10:24 ET

End discrimination against the Missing Million - Trade unions back private member's bill on equal rights for agency workers

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - Jan. 30, 2007) -

Press Conference

Event: Launch of the Temporary Agency Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Bill. Sponsors of the Bill and senior trade union officials will be available for interview.

Speakers: Derek Simpson (General Secretary, Amicus), Jack Dromey (Deputy General Secretary, T&G), Sally Bridge (National Officer, CWU), Frances O'Grady (Deputy General Secretary, TUC) and Paul Farrelly MP.

Date: Thursday 1st February

Time: 10.30 am

Venue: Committee Room 15, House of Commons.

Trade unions are calling on MPs to support a Private Member's Bill designed to stop the exploitation of workers of hundreds of thousands of agency workers.

The Bill seeks to give agency workers the same rights as full time and directly employed staff on key issues including basic wages, sick and holiday pay. Unions say, if enacted, it would prevent unscrupulous employers and agencies exploiting workers and undercutting the hard-won pay and conditions of permanent employees.

The draft legislation, the Temporary Agency Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Bill, is being brought by Paul Farrelly, the Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme. The Bill will require the support of 100 MPs if it is to progress beyond its Second Reading in the House on Friday March 2nd. The Bill is being backed by Amicus, the T&G, GMB, Unison, CWU and UCATT, as well as the TUC and other individual unions.

UK unions believe that the Bill will meet Labour's commitment to ensure protection for temporary and agency workers. In the 2004 Warwick Agreement, Labour pledged to introduce domestic legislation to protect these workers should the EU fail to reach consensus on a European Directive. It is now widely recognised that such a consensus is unlikely due to efforts by some governments to maintain 'flexibility' in their labour markets.

Amicus and the T&G are backing the Private Member's Bill and are asking their 200 affiliated MPs to help ensure it gets its Second Reading in just over a month's time. The trade unions are also asking the government to support the Bill.

Derek Simpson, General Secretary of Amicus, Tony Woodley, General Secretary of the T&G, Billy Hayes, General Secretary CWU said: "The equal treatment people at work is a fundamental human right and a basic test of a fair society.

"Apart from the moral imperative, the ability of unscrupulous employers to create a working underclass will prevent the UK economy becoming the dynamic knowledge-based economy we and the government believe, is our future.

"Under Labour we have made real advancements for workers. But not for all workers - there has been a systematic discrimination against agency workers, many of whom are the most vulnerable in our workplaces. With agency staff now numbering well over one million workers, and set to grow further still, the government cannot continue to place these workers out with the most fundamental employment protections."

Paul Farrelly MP said: "It is more than a year since the general election and time we made further progress in protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation.

"This is issue affects every part of the country and every MP, so I hope that the government will support the bill which aims to stop discrimination against hundreds of thousands of ordinary working people and their families."

Trade unions have been campaigning for workers to be entitled to equal treatment from day one. They say the use of temporary and agency workers is already a significant problem in certain industries, including construction, paper and printing, agriculture, food and drink and the service sectors.

According to figures from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation there are approximately 1.2million agency workers in the UK. The ONS recently estimated it at 1.8million agency workers, with more than 40% to be found in the public sector.

The European Temporary Agency Directive has been mired since 2004. It has been prevented from progressing by the blocking power of four countries including the UK and Ireland.

Successful Private Members' Bills have included other progressive legislation regarding workers rights, including the Christmas Day (Trading) Bill, The Sunday Working (Scotland) Bill and the Gangmasters (Licensing) Bill, which sought to protect vulnerable workers in food processing and agriculture.

- Ends-

Notes to editors

1.According to figure from the TUC, in over a fifth of workplaces, increases in casualisation are linked to the employers' drive to reduce their total wages bill by using temporary staff to works unsocial hours and to cover short-term increases in demand which reduces the need for overtime among permanent workers. Casual workers are also often not paid to be 'on call' but only for the hours they work.

2.In 50% of all workplaces surveyed by the TUC, temporary workers are on different rates of pay to permanent workers. In 70% of workplaces temporary workers do not have the same access to occupational pension schemes. In 25% of workplaces temporary workers are not entitled to contractual sick pay and 14% do not receive any holiday pay.

3.The Low Pay Commission found that of all employers earning less than the National Minimum Wage, 36% were in casual employment and 18% were agency workers.

Contact Information

  • Amicus Press Office
    Catherine Bithell
    020 7 420 8909 or 07958 473 224
    T&G Press Office
    Pauline Doyle
    020 7611 2560 or 07976 832 861
    CWU Press Office
    John Colbert
    020 8971 7244 or 07714 504424