ATSCo concern over Agency Workers Directive - the sacrificial lamb?

The following news release was provided by ATSCo

There is concern in the recruitment industry that the Government may try to placate the Unions in the current fire dispute by diluting its opposition to the EU Agency Workers Directive says Ann Swain, Chief Executive of the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo).

The European Council of Ministers will debate the European Parliament's controversial decision on the Agency Workers Directive (December 3) as part of the dual decision making process.

Comments Ann Swain: "The DTI has been very supportive of the recruitment industry's point of view so far. Our concern is that because of the current level of industrial unrest in the UK the Government may try to mollify the Unions by accepting the Directive as it stands."

"We sincerely hope that the Government will maintain its resolve in making the Directive workable for the UK recruitment industry and not be tempted to offer it to Union chiefs as a sacrificial lamb."

The proposed Directive accepted by the European Parliament (November 21) seeks to give temporary workers the right to the same pay, holiday cover, sick and maternity leave and other benefits enjoyed by permanent employees, from day one. The Agency Workers Directive is backed by the TUC but vehemently opposed by many industry bodies such as the CBI and ATSCo.

Comments Ann Swain; "Not only will the Directive cause significant damage to the 780,000 strong UK temp market (the largest in Europe) but those agency workers most in need of protection are likely to come off worst."

According to ATSCo, the extension of pay and benefits to temporary workers undermines the position of permanent employees and erodes UK competitiveness.

Says Ann Swain; "It doesn't seem fair that an agency worker could begin working for a company and enjoy the same pay and rights as an employee who has, for example, given ten years loyal service."

"On top of that the Agency Workers Directive will be harmful to UK productivity as temporary workers will be less attractive to employ."

The Directive states that the terms and conditions of agency workers should be determined in comparison with permanent staff in the company to which they are assigned. Currently, in the UK, pay and conditions of temporary workers are determined by the employment agency usually taking into consideration the terms and conditions of other comparable agency workers and market forces.

Says Ann Swain; "The current proposal would gravely affect the ability of companies to utilise flexible workforces and for individuals to ply their trade as they wish. We also consider that in no circumstances should the Directive cover 'pay' as a comparable employment condition."

According to ATSCo, the one size fits all approach adopted by the EU fails to take into account the differences between recruitment sectors.

Says Ann Swain; "Many agency workers (particularly in IT) receive higher levels of benefits than a comparable worker in the user company."

The 'exemption' period – when equivalent rights for temps are enacted – was reduced by the EU Employment and Social Affairs Committee from six weeks to one day and has been upheld by the Parliament.

Says Ann Swain; "ATSCo would argue that the time period should be extended to at least 12 months and preferably 18 months to allow the agency worker to have established a longer term relationship with the user company. This relationship would then be much more comparable to the permanent staff in that company."

ATSCo also point out that the Directive would increase the burden of 'red tape' on employers by making them draw up individual contracts or pay scales for every temporary worker hired and make these available to employment agencies. Employers could also be accountable for a breach of contract if they discuss confidential information about employee's salaries.

Monday 10th May 2004
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