Socialist Worker

Report shows councils cut workers' rights by taking on temporary staff

Issue No. 2105

Councils are deliberately cutting workers’ rights by using temporary staff instead of hiring full-time workers.

A new report by the GMB union shows that local authorities spent a staggering £1.7 billion in a year on agency staff. The union said its research on figures for the 2006/7 financial year shows that some authorities spent more than £50 million on temps and agency staff.

GMB regional secretary for Scotland, Harry Donaldson, said, “This is a horrific abuse of the public purse. The point is that this is more than just filling in gaps. On this scale, it is a deliberate scam.

“Too many councils are using cheap temps when they should be recruiting permanent staff who can be properly trained and given the experience that is necessary to provide quality local services to the public.”

The figures were obtained from 424 councils across the UK under the Freedom of Information Act although 31 authorities did not reply to the union.

Ed Blissett, GMB London regional secretary, added, “London Boroughs spent £486.6 million employing temporary agency and temporary staff. This was part of £1.7 billion pounds of taxpayer’s money in 2006/07 spent by councils across the UK.”

Rules for agency workers across Europe

Agency workers in Britain will still have worse rights of employment than other workers across Europe despite a European Union (EU) directive going through the European Council on Monday of this week.

Members of the European Council met in Brussels on Monday to reach a political agreement on the agency workers directive. Britain had previously blocked attempts for the EU law to apply in the UK.

The text of the EU Agency Workers Directive will push for agency and temporary workers to get the same rights as permanent employees from the first day of employment.

But last month, the TUC, the CBI bosses organisation and the government reached an agreement that those equal rights would only apply from 12 weeks of employment.

This will be used to exempt agency workers in Britain from the EU “day one” rule.

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