31 March 2017
Assistant General Secretary for UNITE Steve Turner has told the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Commons Select Committee that employers are employing agency workers to avoid workers’ rights.
On Tuesday (28 March), he gave evidence to the Committee’s inquiry into the gig economy, stating that 1.6 million agency staff are working in an “underground economy”, according to the Morning Star.
The practice of hiring “workers”, who have fewer employment rights than “employees”, is “a business model of choice to reduce costs” and exploit staff, he was quoted as saying, with many on inferior terms and conditions to colleagues directly employed by the companies.
Some agency workers are getting paid £5 less per hour than those recruited directly by firms, he said, and some companies are churning through low-paid staff, using recruitment methods such as taking on the first 50 workers to respond to a text message.
The Institute of Employment Rights argues in its Manifesto for Labour – 25 recommendations for the reform of employment law – that a universal definition of “worker” should replace today’s two-tier system, in which “employees” are afforded more rights.
Everyone in employment would be a “worker”, and each would be eligible for the full suite of workers’ rights from Day One. This would prevent employers from undermining employment law and exploiting vulnerable workers by choosing to employ agency staff instead of recruiting employees.