Socialist Worker

Agency workers are treated like cattle

Issue No. 2177

Agency workers in Liverpool told a study by the North West TUC how they were “treated like cattle” while working on a multi-million pound government contract.

They were earning up to £8,000 a year less than permanent staff – for doing exactly the same job.

They also lost out on holidays, sickness pay and pensions, and even got five minutes less break time than permanent staff.

The Kelly Services workers were working on a contract for IT services firm Fujitsu, which was worth more than £900 million. The contract was with the Revenue and Customs department.

Some of the agency workers had been with Fujitsu for up to eight years, earning the minimum wage.

For a 37.5 hour week their annual salary would have been just £11,700 – compared to between £14,000 and £20,000 a year for permanent staff at Fujitsu.

But there was no guarantee that they would work a full 37.5 hours every week – they were on “zero hours” contracts of employment, without any guarantee of a set number of hours.

Kelly Services agency workers also had to give two weeks notice of leaving employment – even though they could be dismissed on the spot.

Labour Party delays implementation of directive

Gordon Brown promised at the Labour Party conference that the European Union agency workers’ directive would be implemented within months, giving workers more rights.

But the government has delayed its implementation yet again after lobbying from the bosses.

The directive will not be implemented until October or December 2011 – the last possible commencement date under European law.

Labour has been promising the unions it would implement the directive for years.

The Tories have said that they will not implement it.

Employment protection

There is inadequate employment protection for agency workers. And what there is isn’t even enforced.

Britain has less employment protection than any other advanced economy, apart from the US.

The employment agency inspectorate has had its staff doubled – but from just 15 to 30.

Employers and agencies can be fined £5,000 per worker per day for using agency staff to scab on a dispute – but none have ever faced this punishment.

On average an employer will be inspected to ensure they are paying the minimum wage just once every 330 years.

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