Union quest for workers’ rights continues despite raft of legislation

The fight for greater workers’ rights will go on despite the recent raft of legislative announcements, a key union figure has warned.

In the past few weeks, the government has announced that it will extend the right to request flexible working to parents of children aged up to 16give agency workers equal rights to permanent staff after 12 weeks in a jobpublish new diversity legislation and allow all staff to request time off for training.

Business secretary John Hutton then announced that the government was satisfied that it had got employment legislation in this country right.

But Alan Ritchie, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, accused Hutton of “losing touch with reality” – and pledged to fight on for stronger laws.

Ritchie said: “His words are highly offensive to millions of workers who are struggling to support themselves and their families. It is exactly this kind of subservience to business that is causing Labour to haemorrhage grassroots support.

“Good employers who already treat their workers fairly have nothing to fear from fresh employment laws. In fact they should welcome it, as it means that they will not be undercut by rogue employers.”

Ucatt wants to see the government crack down on the exploitation of casual workers and the use of bogus self-employment. It also believes that temps should get equal rights earlier than 12 weeks.

Hutton said last week: “Many people may hope – and some might equally fear – that this agreement [on agency workers’ rights] is the start of a new wave of employment regulation from government. It is not.

“Rather, the agreement on agency workers marks the successful completion of perhaps one of our most important objectives – to create now for the UK the right framework of employment protection without compromising our essential labour market flexibility.”

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