EU reaches stalemate over Agency Workers Directive

The European Union has reached an impasse over the future of the
controversial Agency Workers Directive, after a crucial meeting last week
failed to reach an agreement.

The various European nations are currently at loggerheads over the
directive, with Britain, Germany, Ireland and Denmark all looking for

The current draft of the directive would see employers forced to offer
temporary workers the same employment conditions as permanent staff from day
one of employment. They would also be entitled to the same salary after a
six-week qualification period.

It is this qualification period that is causing the split. The Department of
Trade and Industry (DTI) is pushing for a return to the original position of a
one-year qualification period, or anything above six weeks.

Employers and the Government fear the directive would damage the UK labour
market’s flexibility by making it less attractive to hire temps due to increased
red tape.

The draft will probably now remain with the Council of Ministers, for
further discussion, into the period when the Italian presidency of the EU
starts on 1 July.

If a consensus still can’t be reached, it could become bogged down for as
long as a year before moving to the European Parliament for ratification,
although this is thought unlikely.

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the Engineering
Employers Federation (EEF), said employers would be pleased with the UK Government’s
robust line, despite intense pressure from Europe to get a resolution.

"The fact they didn’t reach agreement shows there is a big gap between
what the different countries want. In theory, it could be with the Council of
Ministers for as long as it takes," he said.

However, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber accused the Government of
scuppering decent pay and basic rights for agency workers.

By Ross Wigham

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