The Labour government showed last week the gulf between its own agenda and that of even the most moderate unions when a minister crushed a new law to provide employment protection for millions of temporary and migrant workers.
Many agency workers face discrimination in the workplace and poorer pay, as well as denial of sick, holiday and overtime pay.
But Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour’s minister for employment relations, blocked a private member’s bill to give agency workers new rights.
The bill was introduced by Paul Farrelly, Labour MP for Newcastle under Lyme, and was backed by the TUC and five big unions – Unison, T&G, Amicus, GMB and the CWU.
Fitzpatrick, who was once a FBU union official, used parliamentary procedure to kill the bill. He kept speaking until time ran out.
Action to deliver agency and temporary workers’ rights had been promised to union leaders as part of the Warwick agreement between the unions and the Labour Party.
The talking out of the agency workers’ bill meant the trade union freedom bill, which was next on the order paper, was not even debated.
Oliur Rahman is a Respect councillor in Tower Hamlets, east London. He stood against Jim Fitzpatrick in the 2005 general election.
Oliur told Socialist Worker, “For Jim Fitzpatrick not to be sympathetic to agency workers is a disgrace. He should be ashamed, especially given his union background.”