Union calls for tighter controls on agency worker conditions

Agency
workers are often employed on inferior terms and conditions, without sick pay,
pensions or training, and are exposed to greater health and safety risks, retail
union Usdaw warned yesterday.

Paddy
Lillis, deputy general secretary for Usdaw, called
for tighter controls on employment agencies and improved rights for agency
workers.

Speaking
at the TUC conference in Brighton,
he said: “Employers often use [agency workers] to undermine established pay and
conditions, and drive a cheap labour wedge through the existing workforce.”

The
stereotype of agency workers being either secretaries or adminstrative
workers temping in offices, or migrant workers ruled by gangmasters,
is wrong, according to Lillis.

“The
single largest group of agency workers – around 30 per cent – work in
mainstream manufacturing,” he said. “The fastest rising group is among
professional and managerial workers – up six-fold in the past five years. There
are now at least 700,000 agency workers in the UK.”

Lallis described as a “myth” the theory that agency workers
are only used to cover peaks and troughs and holiday and sickness absence.

“Barely
a third of agency workers have worked for their existing employer for less than
three months,” he said. “The vast majority are there for extended periods as an established presence on the payroll.”

Usdaw called for the European Union’s agency workers
directive to be implemented at the earliest opportunity, the introduction of a
licensing system for all employment agencies, extended employment rights for
all agency workers and protection for whistleblowers.

By Daniel Thomas

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