Agency workers are well on their way to getting the same rights as their permanent colleagues as the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Rights) Bill successfully went through its second reading today.
As many as 147 MPs voted against just 11 others to rebel against the government and vote on the controversial Bill, which would see agency workers get equal rights to the same terms and conditions as permanent or directly employed staff. This would include factors such as equal pay, pensions and training entitlements.
The Bill will now go to the committee stage, heaping pressure on the government to introduce new legislation. However, the government and business groups across a range of sectors are still opposed to new legislation.
Unions have welcomed the news as the Bill would protect vulnerable workers and clamp down on the discrimination of temporary employees.
Communication Workers Union general secretary Billy Hayes said: “This is a real ‘minimum wage’ moment. The working lives and welfare of 1.4 million agency workers and their families are one step closer to the fair and equal treatment they deserve and need.
“When we get this Bill through, we won’t find any MPs who’ll admit to having been opposed to it. It is a quintessential piece of Labour legislation which we look forward to implementing and enforcing for the good health of British employment.”
Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly earlier told Personnel Today the huge support from the Bill has been led by unions.
Before the Bill passed its second reading, he said: “We have heard that between 100 and 150 Labour MPs will be rebelling against the government, which you have to ask: where did that come from? I don’t think it is political against Gordon Brown, but believe it is union agitation.”
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), however, still claims the Bill will result in hundreds of thousands of job losses, as it would diminish labour market flexibility.
The British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors also fail to see how its introduction will help agency workers get the same rights.
They argue that legislation already exists to protect vulnerable and temporary workers, but is not being enforced properly.
The TUC however, is calling for equal rights for agency workers from day one of their contract. The time frame is not stipulated in the Bill.
Last week, Labour MP Andrew Miller, sponsor of The Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill, told Personnel Today the job loss claim was a “complete myth”, citing that business groups said the same thing about the introduction of the national minimum wage.