17 January 2008 Edition

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Assembly call to protect rights of agency workers

Mitchel McLaughlin

Mitchel McLaughlin

SINN FÉIN Economy spokesperson in the Six Counties Mitchel McLaughlin has tabled a motion in the North’s Assembly on Tuesday calling for protection for agency workers.
“There is a huge growth in the number of employment agencies across the country,” McLaughlin said. “There are almost 600 employment agencies on the island of Ireland where we have a workforce of approximately three million. This compares with Poland, for example, where there are 770 agencies for 40 million workers.
“Increasing numbers of people are employed through Employment agencies yet we need to be wary of if we are to protect workers against the erosion of their rights.”
A disproportionate number of workers employed through agencies are unable to access equal working terms and conditions to directly recruited workers. Recent research in Britain highlights the fact that agency workers are, on average, paid only 68 per cent of the directly paid workforce’s earnings, have fewer entitlements, are younger than their directly employed counterparts, “and have less control over the work they do”, the South Antrim MLA said.
Following the recent announcement of the loss of over 900 jobs at Seagate in Limavady it was discovered that a number of the workers were contracted through employment agencies and not entitled to the same redundancy packages as directly employed workers.
“We must not allow this method of worker recruitment to become prevalent in our society as it serves only to diminish workers’ rights and rates of remuneration while absolving mainly multinational conglomerates of their obligations of providing statutory and other benefits to agency workers,” he said.
“There is a growing concern that the growth in the employment agency sector creates the conditions for exploitation and abuse of these workers. I believe that it is a basic right that workers must be employed on the basis of equal pay for equal work.
McLaughlin explained that Sinn Féin supports proposals contained within the EU draft agency workers directive to give temporary workers full pay and conditions on completion of six weeks employment.
“We do not support the efforts of the Irish, British or Hungarian governments – currently the only three states in Europe without protective legislation for agency workers – to extend this qualifying period of six weeks.
“We reject the Irish and British governments’ position that economic viability can only be achieved on the back of our most vulnerable workers left in a cycle of no rights, low pay and job insecurity.”

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