When I moved to London to seek my fame and fortune I worked as a temp, making tea for the Head of HR at Channel 4. I’d graduated to picking up dry-cleaning for the Head of Comms before I landed a job in the press office. I loved every minute of it – just as well as I “temped” there for almost a year. Since then I’ve been a self-employed consultant and an interim manager in a range of organisations, so I’ve spent almost half of my working life without benefit of holiday pay, sick pay or employers’ pension contributions. This has been my choice and I’m not looking for sympathy, but it does mean that I know a bit about what it’s like at the sharp end of what is usually referred to as Britain’s flexible labour market.
New regulations to drown temp industry?
New regulations coming in this October will give temps and agency workers greater employment protection after they’ve been working for a company for 12 weeks. Or, as the Telegraph put it: New regulations will drown temp industry.
Warning that unemployment will rise as companies off-load temps they can’t afford, the Telegraph warns that fewer jobs will now be created.
“No regulations and no left-wing shit”
I’d expect the Telegraph to back the bosses, so the opposition didn’t surprise me. I’d argue that if you’re temping for a company for three months you’re doing a job not providing holiday cover, so you ought to have the same rights as your permanently employed colleague at the next desk. One of the comments underneath the story is a bit of an eye-opener though:
It’s better to have a chat with agency staff, cut out the middleman and give everyone a better cash deal. This is what I do. No employment regs, no nonsense and no left-wing shit. Any problems and the company will start up next week with a slightly different name.
Let’s pass over thoughts of how that “better cash deal” might be administered, and ask instead – when did offering reasonable employment protection to working people become “left-wing shit”? Are we really saying that nothing is as important as maximizing profit? That only bleeding heart liberals care about people’s rights?
We have been witnessing the slow death of the secure, full-time job, There are up to 1.5million temporary workers in Britain. A “temp” can be hired and fired at an hour’s notice, paid less for doing the same job and lacks rights such as paid holiday and redundancy pay. Agency work is thriving in the service sector, but an incident at a car plant near Oxford in early 2009 illustrates where the rise of the temp has brought us. Eight hundred and fifty temps – many of whom had worked in the factory for years – were sacked by BMW with just one hour’s notice … The workers, with no means of defending themselves from this calamity resorted to pelting managers with apples and oranges … It’s not just agency and temporary workers who suffer because of job insecurity and outrageous terms and conditions. Fellow workers are forced to compete with people who can be hired far more cheaply. Everyone’s wages are pushed down as a result. This is the race to the bottom of pay and conditions.”
Agency Workers Regulations 2011
For anyone interested, here’s the TUC’s guide to agency workers’ rights and guidance on the Agency Workers Regulations which come into force in October. And for the record, I’m with the bleeding heart liberals on this one.