Unite the Union

Unite the Union

November 14, 2007 10:35 ET

Unite ask MPs to take forward legislation to protect agency workers

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Nov. 14, 2007) - The UK's largest trade union is calling on MPs to bring a Private Member's Bill designed to stop the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of agency workers.

Unite is campaigning for legislation that will give equal treatment to the more than one million agency workers employed in the UK. It is urging MPs drawn in the Private Members Bill ballot tomorrow to consider sponsoring draft legislation that will give agency workers the same rights as full time and directly employed staff.

The move comes after draft legislation brought by Labour MP Paul Farrelly, the Temporary Agency Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Bill, finally fell last month. Unite has criticised the government for 'talking out' the bill earlier in the year when it promised as part of the 2004 Warwick Agreement that it would introduce legislation in the UK if a European Directive was not forthcoming.

Paul Farrelly's Private Members Bill received the support of more than 100 Labour MPs.

Derek Simpson, Unite Joint General Secretary, said: "Temporary and agency workers are being deprived of the most basic protections including wages, sick and holiday pay. If enacted, legislation could prevent unscrupulous employers and agencies exploiting more than one million workers and undercutting the hard-won pay and conditions of permanent employees."

Tony Woodley, Joint General Secretary of Unite, said: "As well as being a matter of justice for the growing number of people who are employed in this way, we need to act to stop this creeping casualisation of our workforce.

"The practices that we are seeing now were initially stamped out a generation ago and we need to act now to stop their spread."

The Temporary and Agency Worker campaign is being backed by Unite, GMB, Unison, CWU and UCATT, as well as the TUC and other individual unions. They are also pressing for a European Directive to be introduced before the end of the Portuguese Presidency at the end of the year.

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 UK government is currently leading a blocking minority in Europe, which will prevent the progress of a Directive providing equal treatment for Agency Workers. This makes the need for UK legislation even stronger.

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.

Contact Information

  • Catherine Bithell or Claire Ainsley
    in the Unite press office
    020 7 420 8909 or 07958 473 224 or 020 7 611 2549