Business secretary John Hutton claims government will only support Agency Workers Directive if it protects jobs

Business secretary John Hutton today offered hope to employers when he said the government would only support the Agency Workers Directive if it protected jobs.

The CBI recently warned that to cave into union pressure and give temporary workers full employment rights from day one of employment would cost up to 250,000 jobs.

It insisted that the UK government should push for a qualifying period of at least a year before temps get the same rights as permanent members of staff.

The directive is being discussed at European level today, with unions keen that the Labour Party honours its Warwick Agreement to pursue progress on it.

But Hutton told delegates at the TUC Congress: “It is vital that, as we fulfil our agreement at Warwick to seek progress in Europe on the Agency Workers Directive, we balance a commitment to the principle of equal treatment with a determination to protect jobs and continue giving people the choice that agency work currently offers.”

Hutton said there were two tests that the wording of the directive needed to pass.

“First, does it protect jobs and so advance the fundamental right to work? Will it continue to allow companies to go on creating jobs and promote rising national prosperity? And second, will it make a positive change for the most vulnerable working people?”

Employers believe giving temps equal rights from day one would make them less useful to companies, harming the labour market as well as the economy.

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