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Talks between the Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, unions and employers yesterday failed to reach agreement on a qualifying period for the European Union (EU) Temporary Agency Workers Directive (AWD), which Ireland will have to implement on 5 December 2011, Irish broadcaster RTE reports.
Under the directive, agency workers will be entitled to equal terms and conditions with permanent staff from the first day of employment.
The directive allows social partners in a member state to negotiate a derogation or qualifying period before equal treatment would apply. In the UK, where negotiations between the social partners started two years ago, the qualifying period was set at 12 weeks. In Ireland, Staffing Industry Analysts understand that the period might have been up to six months and even a year was mentioned.
In the absence of such an agreement, the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation says agency workers will be entitled to equal treatment from day one of employment. This includes agency staff in existing contracts on lower terms.
Employers have consistently argued that equal treatment from day one would increase their cost base and be bad for business. Negotiations have been continuing for over three months, but so far Irish unions have refused to concede any qualifying period without concessions on better terms for Joint Labour Committees, and on collective bargaining rights.
Sources stressed to RTE that Minister Bruton was not in a position to impose a derogation, as it could only be negotiated by the social partners, who have up until now been unable to reach agreement.
The General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, David Begg, said no persuasive case had been advanced to justify a derogation from the immediate equal treatment provision that gave rights and protections to vulnerable workers.
Employers group IBEC said the failure to negotiate a derogation would mean jobs would be lost in Ireland as it would be less attractive for work requiring flexibility in employment numbers.
IBEC's director of Industrial Relations, Brendan McGinty said as of now, it was impossible for employers to know their obligations as the government had not yet published legislation to transpose the directive into Irish law.
To read our previous article on the subject, please click here