Unite the Union

Unite the Union

June 04, 2007 06:54 ET

Unite Calls On The Government To Protect Agency Workers

Attention:news,political and industrial editors

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - June 4, 2007) - Unite (Amicus Section) Britain's biggest union will today provide the DTI with damning evidence showing that the abuse and misuse of agency and temporary workers is now systematic and endemic across the UK labour market.

An in-depth survey conducted across manufacturing, finance, construction and the graphical/media industry reveals what the union believes is a catalogue of systematic abuse of agency workers amongst some of the UK's best known names. The survey demonstrates that the exploitation of agency workers is not just confined to rogue employers but is becoming a feature of the UK's employment landscape. The companies surveyed included Coca Cola, BMW, Harper Collins, Norwich Union, WH Smiths and Unisys, Honda (see notes to editors).

In one company it was found that up to 5 workers would share one bed. Unite intervened when it had been reported that workers were being bussed to and from work each day and that some individuals had been sleeping in the staff canteen.

Unite Joint General Secretary, Derek Simpson says,

"Regardless of how you define a McJob, many employers are using agency workers to undermine pay and conditions and replace permanent workers with cheaper, less qualified labour, leaving hundreds of thousands in a cycle of insecure and low paid employment.

The Government's failure to make progress on providing equal employment rights to agency and temporary workers despite a commitment in the 2004 Warwick agreement is outrageous. We expect the new leadership of the Labour Government to right this wrong and implement the measures contained in the proposed EU Directive on Temporary and Agency Workers."

Earlier this year a private members bill, brought by Paul Farrelly, Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, and supported by trade unions, would have given agency workers the same rights to pay, sick leave and overtime as directly employed staff. The bill was talked out and denied a vote in the House of Commons.

Unite (Amicus section) is calling on the Government to:

- Implement the EU Directive on Temporary and Agency Workers and the Temporary Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Bill
- Introduce the licensing and registration of Employment Agencies
- Ensure the enforcement of Agency worker rights and strict penalties for non compliance
- Give agency and temporary workers employment status and the principle of equal treatment
- Restrict the practice of replacement of core workers with agency staff on permanent/on-going "rolling" assignments and the introduction of limits on the time agency workers can be used before being offered permanent employment or the work reverting to permanent employment.
- Outlaw "transfer fees"
- Outlaw the supply of temporary agency workers to sites where official industrial action is taking place
- Ensure temporary and agency workers have access to pension rights, training and career development
- Introduce health and safety and wellbeing indicators for temporary agency workers


Notes to editors


A well known IT company where a number of Southern African workers had recently been supplied by the Right4Staff Agency for data processing work. Reports made to the Unite Amicus Section representative indicated that in their accommodation, up to 5 workers would share one bed.

The workers took turns at sleeping while those who shared the bed with them were out at work. In addition, the workers had no access to communal facilities such as kitchens, lounge areas or laundry. Amicus intervened when it had been reported that workers were being bussed to and from work each day and that some individuals had been sleeping in the staff canteen.

Unite is calling on the Government to honour the Labour Party's commitment before the last election as part of its' Warwick commitment to trade unions, to protect agency workers through the adoption of the European Directive on Temporary and Agency Workers.

WH Smith, Swindon

This site is a Distribution Centre for the WH Smith. 129 agency staff are currently employed at the centre and this number can rise to well over 300 during peak times. There are substantial discrepancies in rates paid to permanent and temporary workers.

Pay Rates
Permanent staff: Pounds Sterling 7.90
Temporary agency staff: Pounds Sterling 5.90

Permanent Staff: Time and a half or double time as appropriate
Temporary agency workers: No premium for overtime

Honda, Swindon

Earlier this year Honda announced that due to growth in sales for the Honda Civic they would be recruiting an additional 700 employees at the Swindon manufacturing plant. 800 workers have since been taken on to meet demand. At the same time Unite Amicus Section discovered that Honda had changed its recruitment policy for new starters.

Previously new recruits were employed for a 6 month probationary period which could be extended if the new starter had not reached the expected standard. This policy resulted in a high turnover for Honda which was undesirable for the company.

Instead of tackling the problem of turnover Honda decided to have all new recruits supplied as temporary workers through an agency (Best Connection). Agency workers are also paid significantly less than Honda employees and have a third less holiday entitlement.

Pay rates
Permanent staff: Pounds Sterling 9.62 an hour starter rate
Temporary agency workers: Pounds Sterling 7.92 an hour

Permanent staff: 33 days
Temporary agency workers: 20 days

Unite Amicus Section has been working through the Honda Company council in an effort to get the company to reconsider this policy.

Harper Collins Publishers, Glasgow

Pay rates
The rate for agency staff is Pounds Sterling 6.25 per hour or Pounds Sterling 6.75 on night shift. Harper Collins employees are on a day shift of Pounds Sterling 8.00 per hour, late shift of Pounds Sterling 8.00 per hour + Pounds Sterling 50 shift premium. The night shift rate is Pounds Sterling 8.00 per hour + Pounds Sterling 90 shift premium. There is an overtime rate of time and half minimum or double time after 4 hours and double time on a Sunday. Agency workers enjoy none of these premiums.

The Harper Collins staff have been told there will be no more overtime available to them as the excess will be taken up by agency workers as they are considerably cheaper. The management have also stated to union officials that temporary workers are more productive. In turn, agency workers have been told they must be flexible between all shifts.

Coca Cola Enterprises Ltd, Wakefield

Coca Cola has recently engaged an employment agency known as Right Direction UK specifically to recruit Polish workers to do 'quality checking' work at Pounds Sterling 7 per hour. This is significantly below the pay rates for equivalent workers organised by Unite Amicus Section on site. Agency workers also miss out on a 38% shift allowance.

The company is also making significant savings by avoiding paying for pension contributions, sick pay, profit sharing and holiday pay terms that have been negotiated by the union.

Pay rates
Permanent staff: Pounds Sterling 12.13 an hour
Temporary agency workers: Pounds Sterling 7

BMW, Hams Hall

Temporary staff makes up more than two thirds of the 500 or more shop floor workers at this site. At BMW temporary workers are able to access overtime but basic pay is less and certain benefits are limited to permanent staff. Some agency staff are paid up to Pounds Sterling 5 an hour less than their equivalent permanently employed colleagues. One temporary worker at the plant alleges that in the canteen there are two price lists, one for permanent staff and another for temporary workers. Prices in the canteen are higher for temporary staff.

After 6 months temporary staff are eligible to apply for a permanent position at BMW, however, most candidates are told that they do not make the grade, despite performing exactly the same daily duties as permanent staff. Some temporary workers have over 5 years experience with the company.

Contact Information

  • Unite (Amicus section)
    Ciaran Naidoo
    07768 931 315