21 May 2008
The CWU, along with other TUC affiliated unions, has been campaigning for the UK Government to withdraw its veto to the proposal for an EU Directive on equal treatment for agency workers which would lead to the requirement to introduce UK legislation.
The General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Brendan Barber, together with a team of union general secretaries, including CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes, has been in detailed discussions with the Prime Minister and other Ministers on the issue over recent weeks. Talks between Ministers and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have also taken place. A joint statement was agreed by the TUC Executive Committee at its meeting on Tuesday 20 May 2008.
The terms of that statement read as follows:
AGENCY WORKERS: JOINT DECLARATION BY GOVERNMENT, THE CBI AND THE TUC
'The CBI and TUC have reached agreement on how fairer treatment for agency workers in the UK should be promoted, while not removing the important flexibility that agency work can offer both employers and workers.
Agreement has been reached on the following points.
- After 12 weeks in a given job there will be an entitlement to equal treatment.
- Equal treatment will be defined to mean at least the basic working and employment conditions that would apply to the workers concerned if they had been recruited directly by that undertaking to occupy the same job. It will not cover occupational social security schemes.
- The Government will consult the social partners regarding the implementation of the Directive more generally, in particular:
- mechanisms for resolving disputes regarding the definition of equal treatment and compliance with the new rules that avoid undue delays for workers and unnecessary administrative burdens for business;
- appropriate arrangements to enable the two sides of industry and also public services to reach appropriate agreements on the treatment of agency workers, while respecting the overall protection of agency workers; and
- appropriate anti-avoidance measures reflecting Art 9 (2), in particular relating to the treatment of repeat contracts for the same worker and the position of workers with permanent contracts of employment with agencies who continue to be paid between assignments; it is not intended that article 5 (2) will be used to evade the aims of the Directive.
- The new arrangements will be reviewed at an appropriate point in the light of experience.
The Government will now engage with its European partners to seek agreement on the terms of the Agency Workers Directive that will enable this agreement to be brought into legal effect in the United Kingdom. The Government hopes that EU agreement will be obtained in time for the necessary UK implementing legislation to be introduced in the next parliamentary session'
The UK Government will now engage with other member states to reach agreement on an EU Directive, following which legislation will be introduced in the UK to give effect to that Directive.
The exact content of any UK legislation will be the subject of further detailed consultation between the Government, the TUC and the CBI, and there are very important issues which will still need to be resolved.
The statement detailed above represents a significant move on the part of the Government in the face of the campaigning by the CWU and other trade unions, and the support of many Labour MPs but there are several challenging issues still to be to addressed.
We have got this far as a result of the CWU sustained campaign over many years, in particular the work of the Agency Workers Forum headed up by Sally Bridge, together with the work within the TUC and Labour Party by Jeannie Drake and the General Secretary.