More than 250,000 temporary jobs could be axed if the government bows to pressure at this week’s TUC Congress to give agency workers full employment rights, the CBI has claimed.
With a senior member of the cabinet – possibly prime minister Gordon Brown – expected to speak at the congress, employers fear an announcement on agency worker rights.
EU talks on resurrecting the Agency Workers Directive, which would give full employment rights to temps, begin tomorrow (Wednesday). Attempts to finalise the wording of the directive have been held up by five years of arguing between unions and employer groups over the length of a qualifying period.
A motion almost certain to be passed at the TUC Congress calls for temps to gain full rights from day one of employment. But almost six in 10 of the 507 firms questioned in the 2007 CBI/Pertemps annual employment trends survey said that equal rights for temporary staff would lead to a ‘significant’ cut in their use.
About 3% of employees in the workforce at any one time are temps, meaning 252,000 placements would be at ‘serious risk’, according to the CBI.
John Cridland, deputy director-general of the CBI, said: “These jobs offer quality work to people who actively choose a form of employment that allows them to balance responsibilities or pursue other interests.
“Many are women returning to employment after having a family, or young people for whom this is a first essential step into further employment.
“This important section of the workforce has an uncertain future if the government caves in to pressure for a new EU law.”