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World – Global union attacks staffing industry

03 October 2012

A major international union in the mining, energy and manufacturing sector has criticised the use of agency labour which it claims creates a “triangular trap” of employment relationships.

IndustriALL Global Union, which represents 50 million workers in 140 countries, attacked “the massive expansion of the use of agency work” in a new report.

The union is demanding “direct, secure and decent employment.”

“Employment via agencies, labour brokers, dispatchers and contractors is being used to wholesale replace permanent, direct employment. Its use goes way beyond any legitimate need to fill genuinely temporary vacancies,” said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.

The report refers to official figures by the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (Ciett), which has shown that global annual revenue in the staffing industry has grown rapidly over the past years. The union perceives this as a clear negative trend in the labour market. It said agency work was characterised by a triangular relationship between the staffing firm, the staffing buyer and the worker. This, it argues, isolates “the worker from the enterprise that effectively controls their work, their pay and their conditions so that the worker has no say in any of them and has no mechanism to negotiate improvements.”

The report claims that agency workers “typically” receive lower wages than directly hired workers and also face higher health and safety risks. In many developed staffing markets, however, temporary workers receive equal pay, something that has also been encouraged by the Agency Workers Directive in Europe.

But according to the union, agency workers are often unable to join a union or bargain collectively. “Employers all over the world are taking advantage of laws which allow them to replace their permanent workforces with agency workers in order to avoid their employment obligations,” said Mr Raina.

The union directly attacks staffing agencies and Ciett, which it claims “gloss over the negative consequences of agency work in their lobbying efforts to remove legal restrictions on agency work.” The union’s main aim is to stop so-called “precarious work” and lobby for permanent employment contracts.

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