A step towards equal rights for agency workers

After failing to defend the right of prison staff to take industrial action, Labour MPs get their act together over giving agency workers the same rights as permanent staff – but wait, this is only a vote to give the bill a second reading…

Brown is meeting with union leaders on Monday – he favours an “inquiry” rather than action. It will be interesting to see what happens. Will they take the opportunity to push him on this, now momentum has been built?

Labour MPs have stepped up pressure on Gordon Brown over rights for agency workers ahead of a meeting on Monday.

Backbenchers rallied enough support to get a second reading for a private member’s bill to give temporary workers the same rights as permanent staff.

Mr Brown has pledged an inquiry into the issue instead, but he is to meet union leaders to discuss a way forward.

More than one million people are employed via agencies, which means they do not get benefits such as sick pay.

MPs voted by 147 to 11 – a margin of 136 – to back Labour MP Andrew Miller’s bill, proposing to give agency workers the same rights as permanent staff.

Among the 136 Labour MPs who voted for the bill’s second reading was former work and pensions secretary Peter Hain.


Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, said: “The message today sent by Labour MPs to their government could not be any clearer.

“Nothing less than primary legislation, delivered now, can quell the clamour that has come from MPs, the Labour Party’s ruling body and from the wider labour movement.

“Hopefully today’s vote has also quashed the idea of a commission to look into agency working.

“The evidence of the need for legislation now is overwhelming and we will not accept the promise of jam tomorrow.”

Mr Miller’s bill was helped on to the next stage by dozens of Labour backbenchers who took part in the debate, many of whom might normally have spent Friday in their constituencies.

Mr Miller, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said he was facing the same “doom merchants” who had opposed the introduction of the minimum wage.

He told MPs: “It’s in the best long-term interests of the economy to encourage employers to plan for the long term and establish a well-trained and well-motivated workforce.

“What the bill proposes is morally right. How can it be right for people to work alongside each other with the same skills doing precisely the same task and yet one category of employee is worth less than another?”


2 Responses to “A step towards equal rights for agency workers”

  1. David Lindsay Says:

    Good for the 147 Labour MPs who turned up to vote in favour of a Private Member’s Bill to do no more than honour John Smith’s ancient promise to give agency workers equal rights. But why was this a Private Member’s Bill? And where were the other 205 Labour MPs?

  2. landsker Says:

    On several occasions, I worked for agencies in the building trade, and was working in Germany and Holland.
    Another regular trick that went on was the failure to pass on tax and insurance contributions by the agents, particularly for short-term contracts.
    A few months, or a year or two of business, and the agents would change names and adresses to evade inspection, and through no fault of their own, the workers face gaps in their pension and tax records.

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