date: Friday 10 August 2001
embargo: 00:01hrs Tuesday 14 August 2001
More information at www.tuc.org.uk/temps
Temporary workers in the UK could miss out on equal rights to pay and pensions if the Government waters down the implementation of the EU Fixed-Term Contracts Directive, the TUC warned today (Tuesday).
Although the Government plans to comply with the 1999 Directive by next July, the TUC is concerned that equal treatment on pay and pensions may be excluded. The TUC also wants new laws to cover the increasing number of agency workers.
There are 1.7 million people in the UK on temporary contracts, casuals or agency workers, 7% of the total workforce. Sixteen percent of temporary workers are now agency workers, compared with just 7% eight years ago.
In a survey, released today, of almost 200 unionised workplaces (who tend to have better terms and conditions), the TUC found:
The TUC found that 82% of workplaces surveyed had increased the number of people employed on temporary contracts in the last ten years.Reasons given for use of temporary workers include:
Temporary work is growing among professionals, managers and technically qualified staff. Some of the biggest growth sectors for temporary work are in banking and finance, hotels and restaurants, further and higher education, transport and tourism.
Temporary workers are more likely to be:
John Monks, TUC General Secretary, said: 'Some high skilled workers positively choose to do temporary work, welcoming the autonomy and flexibility provided by well paid short-term challenges. However, lower skilled workers increasingly find themselves trapped in temporary work that is comparatively low paid and leaves them without work-related benefits or job security.
'To get commitment from workers, they must feel they have some commitment from their employers. Constant worries about being laid off, lack of sick pay and access to pensions means a UK workforce that is treated mean and anything but keen. That can only be bad for business.'
Paula Mason, has worked on a ferry operating out of Portsmouth for the last three years. Although it is a P&O ferry, she is employed by an offshore crewing agency and is technically laid off every Wednesday, when she comes ashore. She is paid the same hourly rate as permanent staff but only paid for time on the ship. Consequently she and her fellow agency workers are paid £9,000 a year, while permanent staff get £18,500. She says: 'Every year, the ship is sent for a three week refit and we agency staff have to claim Job Seekers Allowance. I pay national insurance but the agency doesnt. People dont know how badly we are treated.' Paula is an RMT member.
Dockers at a London port work with casuals from a number of agencies. The agency workers are paid significantly less for doing the same work. Rates of pay are variable, depending on the time of day and the part of the week. One of the pay rates for permanent workers is £15 an hour, while agency staff earn just £8 an hour for the same work. Holiday and sick pay is also denied to agency staff although the union (T&G) managed to win holiday pay for workers from one of the agencies last year. Others are too afraid to ask for their rights (under the Working Time Directive) for fear of being laid-off. The shop steward, Barry Wakefield, who is one of the permanent staff, says: 'Agency workers are used as cheap labour and as a visible threat to permanent employees job security. For doing the same job, agency staff sometimes get around half the pay. The simple fact is that they will never have the confidence to stand up for themselves unless they are protected by law.'
Dave Turnbull is a union (T&G) officer covering Park Lane hotel workers , many of whom are employed as temps, paid less than permanent staff, have no overtime premiums, no sick pay and no pension scheme. They are too frightened to speak out about their treatment. Dave says: 'I have one member who has worked as a banqueting waiter for 23 years, doing 40-50 hour weeks, and he is still treated as a casual worker. We do what we can to get them better conditions but without legally enforceable rights they are just an hour away from being laid off.'
Bethany Baume, is a typical student worker . Half way through a degree at Plymouth University, she has returned home for the summer to help ease her overdraft. She works part time as a retail assistant in a high street clothes shop. She has no access to a pension scheme, no sick pay and her paid holiday entitlement is included in her basic pay. She says: 'I cant afford any time off. If Im sick I just have to go in. I wont be taking any time off for holidays because I need the extra money.'
Jean Whitehouse, works as a course manager at a university . She has been on a series of short-term contracts for the last three years and her current contract is due to expire just as daughter goes to university. She has decided to freeze her pension in order to save for her daughters education. She says: 'Ive got to put my daughter first.' She has been unable to get a mortgage from a high street lender and says: 'I live with the threat of repossession should my income dry up.' Jean is an AUT member.
Notes to Editors:
Permanent rights for temporary workers website is at www.tuc.org.uk/temps
All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
A series of TUC rights leaflets, including advice for part-time and agency workers, are available on our website and from the know your rights line 0870 600 4 882. Lines are open every day from 8am-10pm. Calls are charged at the national rate.
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