“Agency workers should not be treated as permanent workers,” said Alan Duncan, shadow secretary for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. “In times of economic squeeze, we don’t need to introduce working practices that result in businesses performing less well.”
Duncan was speaking at a CIPD and KPMG Parliamentary event held to discuss whether or not agency workers should have the same rights as permanent workers, after the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill passed its second reading in Parliament on March 22. The Bill aims to give agency workers these rights.
Unions are in favour of the Bill, whereas government would rather see a commission set up to discuss the issue.
“Unions see economics as simple broad structures,” continues Duncan. “Life isn’t like that, and neither is employment.” He then told <i>HR</i> magazine that he believed the Bill would not pass. “It will die. A lot of this is fantasy fanfare. The only reason it ever got to this point was down to a quirk of the Parliamentary timetable.”
However, the TUC’s Brendan Barber – also speaking at the event - wants equal treatment for agency workers from their first day on the job, and will not compromise on a longer qualifying period where workers wait a number of weeks or months until they receive these rights.
“It would only provide opportunities for unscrupulous employers to exploit it,” said Barber. He did say, however, that the TUC is willing to consider the proposition of a Commission.