EU infighting stalls agency worker law

The controversial European Agency Workers Directive has become stuck fast in
the machinery of EU government much to the delight of UK employers.

The directive, which would give temps the same employment rights as
full-time workers from day one is now unlikely to be resolved until the end of
2004.

It was due to be considered by the Council of Ministers this month, but
Personnel Today now understands discussions won’t take place until December at
the earliest.

MEP Ieke van den Burgh, who is responsible for drafting the directive, is
said to have complained about a lack of interest in progressing the legislation
from the Italians since they took over the EU presidency in July.

The directive is likely to face more delays when Ireland, which has sided
with the UK in opposing the legislation, takes over the EU presidency in
January 2004.

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the Engineering
Employers Federation (EEF), said progress would have to wait until the second
half of 2004, when the Dutch take over and the new member states are admitted
to the EU.

The draft directive would give temporary workers the same employment
conditions as permanent staff from the first day of employment, and the same
salary after a six-week qualification period.

Research by Personnel Today shows that the vast majority of organisations
think the directive in its current form would increase staffing costs and red
tape. Employers want the directive amended so temps don’t qualify for equal
rights until they have been employed for at least six months.

Mike Taylor, group HR director for building services firm Lorne Stewart,
hoped the delay would give the UK more time to lobby for changes to the
directive.

The CBI’s head of HR policy Susan Anderson said the UK must start finding
allies who also oppose the directive among the new EU members.

By Ross Wigham

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