The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called on the government to persuade the EU to resurrect the Agency Workers’ Directive which aims to provide temporary workers with better working conditions.
It also says that, in the meantime, domestic legislation to protect temps should be introduced.
According to a new survey by the TUC 87 per cent of temporary workers earn less than their permanent contemporaries. The reasons vary from lower hourly rates to losing out on overtime or bonus schemes.
And the TUC also says that the traditional picture of a temporary worker being in a support role for a few weeks has changed. Many of the temps it surveyed, both in the public and private sector, are performing key roles and although the average contract is for three months, a quarter had been in place for more than 11 months.
In ‘Working on the edge: A report on agency workers’, the TUC says that although the UK government has said it remains committed to the aims of the Agency Workers’ Directive, since September 2005 this draft piece of European legislation has effectively been sitting on a Brussels shelf, unable to attract sufficient support from enough European governments for it to become law.
The TUC is concerned that employers are increasingly seeing temps as a way of getting staff on the cheap, taking on agency workers to fulfil the same roles as permanent employees. Over the past five years, 82 per cent of the organisations surveyed said they were using temps more often and nearly a third have replaced permanent employees with temporary workers.
But the TUC points out that temps are not covered by unfair dismissal legislation and they are not entitled to redundancy payments.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Clearly temporary jobs are always going to be preferable for some people who have family or other commitments, but there’s no reason why the thousands of individuals who opt for agency work should be getting such a raw deal.
“Earning less, not allowed to pay into a pension scheme or to benefit from an employer’s contributions, given less holiday, little if any access to training, and no sick pay, is no way for the UK to be treating a significant proportion of its workforce.
“But there is a simple solution. If it became law, the EU Directive would instantly make life fairer for temps by giving them the same basic rights as their permanent colleagues. The government should do all it can to breathe life back into the shelved Directive and to encourage other European governments to give the draft legislation similar support.”
The TUC survey covered 85 workplaces representing 100,000 staff and 15,000 temps. A copy can be found at: TUC temps