There are reports that the government is planning to repeal a legal ban on agency workers filling in for workers who are on strike.
The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) is warning that this would be a breach of international labour standards.
Tania Bowers, Global Public Policy Director at APSCo, explained, “We would not expect the government to go ahead with this plan for a change in the agency worker legislation without consultation with the recruitment sector including ourselves. This legislative move would be out of line with most developed nations and in breach of international labour standards. It’s also not a short-term solution as it requires primary legislation change.
“This government was elected on a manifesto of improving worker rights via implementation of the recommendations of 2017’s Taylor Review, currently being considered by the Prime Minister’s Future of Work review. We are therefore surprised by the unexpected move to amend the agency legislation, which will only restrict the impact of workers exercising their rights to strike.”
Bowers, added, “We are sceptical about the impact of removing the prohibition on agency workers replacing strikers, or those workers moved to replace strikers. This is for several reasons. Most of the roles are skilled and therefore agency workers may require upskilling, onboarding and compliance checks. This means that there would certainly be a time lag before workers would be ready to fill resourcing needs. In a very skills short market, skilled workers, such as train drivers for example are unlikely to be “on the bench” and readily available. Furthermore, workers – and we anticipate recruitment businesses – will be reticent about replacing strikers.
“Whilst most highly skilled sectors supported by APSCo’s members are not generally unionised, we note that both teaching and NHS unions are also talking of balloting their members in the context of effective pay cuts in a period of rising inflation, a risk faced by the entire UK workforce. APSCo proudly supports the Education and Clinical Healthcare sectors through its sector groups and Compliance + standards.”
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