UK – Professional recruitment bodies concerned about controversial changes to agency worker regulations

July 13, 2022

Earlier this week the government approved controversial plans to allow agency workers to replace strikers and recruitment bodies the Association for Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and the World Employment Confederation Europe, added their concerns to those reported yesterday.

Bettina Schaller, President of the World Employment Confederation, said: “Both international social partners (WEC and UNI Global) stress the need for constructive tripartite social dialogue at the appropriate level to address the issue.

The memorandum of understanding between member companies of the World Employment Confederation and UNI Global, signed in 2008, underlines the importance of sectoral social dialogue at national and company level, which is essential to address the current labor market challenges, added the WEC.

UNI Global Union and the World Employment Confederation have reached a long-standing agreement which sets out guidelines for the proper regulation of the industry, including “a ban on the replacement of striking workers by agency workers without prejudice to national law or practice”, the WEC Europe stated.

“The UK government’s attempt to facilitate the breaking of the strikes will only add fuel to the fire of discontent that is spreading across the country,” said UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig. “Employment agencies are absolutely right to denounce this type of union busting as bad for business and bad for workers’ rights. We call on them to continue to live up to their values ​​and to continue to resist any changes to UK law to allow this egregious practice. »

Tania Bowers, director of global public policy at the Association for Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), said: “With the uncertainty of the leadership election underway, we believe this decision should at least have been delayed and that the new Prime Minister should have reflected on this important change in legislation, particularly following the concerns that have been raised to us by so many recruitment managers. APSCo has already written to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and a number of ministers calling for the need for consultation before any decision is taken. We received communication in response to this from MP Paul Scully when he was Business Secretary that the proposed changes would continue to move forward despite the concerns raised.

“While we recognize the desire to limit the disruption associated with staff strikes, other measures such as limiting this use of agency workers to replace striking workers to certain sectors and scenarios or only allowing this action to provide a skeletal crew, should at least have been considered.APSCo will continue to raise our members’ concerns to the government regarding both the timing of this change in legislation and, more importantly, the ramifications this change will have for the workers and businesses in the future,” continued Bowers.

Leaders of some of the UK’s biggest recruitment companies wrote a joint letter to Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in June about the government’s plan. Additionally, the recruitment industry and unions have also previously issued warnings about the repeal of legal restrictions, adding that the plans could be in breach of international law. Despite the warnings, the government went ahead with its plans.

Business Secretary Jane Hunt said a change was needed to remove the “outdated blanket ban” on employment firms supplying agency workers to cover official industrial action. Hunt added that the change did not restrict workers’ ability to strike and denied it would have an impact on safety.

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