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Temporary workers could miss out on equal rights


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:

  • 50% pay temporary workers on different pay rates compared with permanent workers (47% get less and just 3% get more)
  • 70% do not offer the same access to occupational pension schemes
  • 25% do not give access to contractual sick leave to temporary workers
  • 14% do not give holiday pay to temporary workers

The TUC survey, Permanent Rights for Temporary Workers, reveals a two tier temporary workforce emerging: those in high skilled, high tech sectors who are able to ‘play the field’ and a growing band of those at the lower end of the labour market who are often paid less, get worse terms and conditions and are worried about their job security.

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:

  • changing demand, including seasonal fluctuation (56%)
  • cost-cutting (22%)
  • deliberate management decisions to increase the ratio of temporary staff (20%)

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:

  • women (54%)
  • part-time workers (47%)
  • under 30 (44%)
  • from ehnic minorities (11%)

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.”

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