Employment ministers from across Europe failed yesterday to thrash out a deal to implement the Agency Workers Directive.
The European Council had been discussing a new directive on agency workers since 2002, which would give temps in the UK the right to equal treatment with permanent employees on issues such as pay, working time and holidays.
The legislation will be discussed again in 2008.
Most EU states back these proposals, but the British government, in a minority with others, has blocked progress on the directive being adopted claiming it would damage the country’s flexible labour market and hit jobs.
Ministers also failed to agree on conditions for an opt-out from a maximum 48-hour work week as part of the EU’s working time directive.
The TUC had called on prime minister Gordon Brown to break the long-standing European deadlock and agree a new deal.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “What is most depressing today is to listen to ministers endorse the business argument that the UK economy can only succeed by having fewer rights for its employees that its competitors. This is a sad view of the capabilities of UK companies and their managers.”
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed yesterday’s result. John Cridland, deputy director-general said: “The Government deserves congratulations on ensuring this directive was not passed. A quarter of a million UK jobs would have been in jeopardy if it had been bullied through in Brussels.”