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Loopholes Campaign

 

 
 
 

Background

This new campaign is born out of the success of the CWU's long-running 'Euro-trashed' campaign, seeking equal treatment for agency workers. This culminated in the implementation of the EU's Temporary Agency Workers Directive in UK law in 2011.

It hasn't taken long for unscrupulous employers to find new ways to reinvent pay inequality. Many companies are now exploiting loopholes in the UK's new Agency Regulations by drawing up contracts that exclude a new generation of agency workers from the right to equal treatment in terms of pay to that of directly employed staff undertaking comparable roles.

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One such way is through the introduction of 'Pay Between Assignment' contracts which effectively exempt agency workers from securing equal treatment by guaranteeing (not very much) pay when between work placements. This is allowed to be as little as one hour at minimum wage - but is set at a minimum of four hours' pay in Manpower contracts - and means workers never trigger qualification for equal treatment.

The campaign

The Pay Between Assignment (PBA) contracts are currently exploited by BT as an employer and Manpower as a hirer in BT call centres. Since April 2011 most new joiners have been required to sign such contracts which exempt them from the right to pay equal to that of directly employed staff undertaking comparable roles.

Fiercely contested by the CWU from the outset, these contracts now cover a fast growing minority of agency employees on the BT contract. Unless checked, over time this may result in the majority of agency employees losing out on the hard-won rights to equal pay with those benefitting at the moment becoming an ever-shrinking group.

Such an outcome, assistant secretary Sally Bridge insists, is something the CWU can never accept. "From the very outset of the 'Euro-trashed' campaign back in 2006 our aim has always been to secure employment fairness for all agency workers - not simply for a particular group which will inevitably get smaller over time.

"We did not come this far down the line only to fall at the last hurdle."

Listen to the podcast of Sally Bridge talking to Simon Sapper about the importance of the campaign and how the exploitation of agency workers impacts on young people, in particular.

Objectives:

CWU's National Agency Campaign team, led by national officer, Sally Bridge and members of the executive, will front this campaign to:

  • Secure amendments to the UK Agency Regulations which close current loopholes that currently enable hirers and employment agencies to exploit agency workers.
  • Raise the profile of agency issues amongst the CWU membership and to encourage our agency members to become active in the campaign.
  • Raise awareness at a political level and to secure support in order that this issue is brought back on to the political agenda.
  • Engage and work with the TUC and UNI to make this a wider trade union issue.
  • Give consideration to challenging the UK Agency Regulations within the European Commission.

The involvement of branches will be integral to the success of this campaign and more importantly the participation of agency members that are actually affected by these contracts.

Have a question? Check out the Q&A to find the answers, download the Agency workers directive factsheet or have a look at the news page for the latest on agency workers.

For more information please contact Sally Bridge on 0208 971 7311 or email sabridge@cwu.org.

 
 
 
"Officers of the Branch Dave Hill and Sandra Walmsley discuss the CWU Agency Workers campaign on "closing the loopholes" with active campaigner Ricky Tomlinson, Tom Watson MP-Vice Chair Labour Party, Regional Secretary Carl Webb and other activists"
"Officers of the Branch Dave Hill and Sandra Walmsley discuss the CWU Agency Workers campaign on "closing the loopholes" with active campaigner Ricky Tomlinson, Tom Watson MP-Vice Chair Labour Party, Regional Secretary Carl Webb and other activists"

Backing for agency rights from NW Labour Conference

CWU News, 11th September 2012

CWU picked up strong backing for agency workers' rights at the North West Labour Party Conference which took place in Blackpool's Winter Gardens on 8th and 9th September. The union's proposition on closing loopholes which allow agency workers to receive less than equal pay received unanimous support from delegates and key speakers.

The Conference was opened by Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, Labour's Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth. He welcomed delegates to conference saying: "It's fantastic to be welcoming Labour Regional Conference to Blackpool for a second consecutive year. I'm proud visitors and colleagues will be able to see the revitalised Winter Gardens and tower - along with the new tramway and headlands - projects funded by the previous Labour Government and brought to completion by Blackpool's new Labour Council.

"These are tough times. The challenge at this Conference and beyond is to persuade those who did not vote Labour at the last General Election to put their trust in us again and demonstrate how Labour will make a difference."

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Sandra Walmsley, CWU Telecoms and Financial Services Executive member, went to the rostrum to move CWU's proposition regarding the rights of agency workers which called for amendments to the UK Agency Regulations to close current loopholes that enable employers and hiring agencies to exploit agency workers. It was seconded by public sector union Unison and was supported unanimously by conference. Read the motion in full.

Andrew Miller MP, who in 2008 promoted a Private Members' Bill to secure equal treatment for agency workers, and Ivan Lewis MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, both made supportive speeches from the platform. Andrew singled out the CWU for praise for our campaign that saw the introduction of agency workers regulations and for the work the union continues to do in calling for the loopholes to be closed.

The conference debated a range of important issues, including new Police and Crime Commissioners, the need for greater investment to generate growth, and the dangers of increasing child poverty. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was a guest speaker, speaking about both Labour and the Coopertive Parties.

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CWU and Simpson Millar Solicitors sponsored the pre-conference function on Friday evening which was addressed by Chuka Umunna MP (top left) and CWU general secretary Billy Hayes (bottom left).

Commenting on the weekend, CWU's North West regional secretary Carl Webb said: "It's been a busy and successful event for CWU. We've managed to raise the profile of problems faced by agency workers on contracts which effectively exclude them from equal treatment, and we've strengthened our alliances with both local politicians and other unions. There are many challenges but we're stronger facing them together."

CWU Delegates to the conference were: Carl Webb, Richard Morgan, Sandra Walmsley, Ian Moran, Derek Maylor, Brian Kenny, Angela Teeling, Steve Donald, Jacqui Stewart, Tony Salt and Tony Monks.