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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 February 2012

Tough conditions for agency workers

I am 23 and have been unemployed for four months. Prior to this, I was working in an unskilled job as a temporary worker for a higher education institution.

Recruitment agencies employing temporary workers have increasingly become a fact of life. It is estimated that only around 5% of current vacancies are for full-time permanent positions.

Agencies are used to undercut the terms, conditions and wages of permanent staff. It can provoke a 'divide and rule' tension among workers, as temps start to resent the permanent staff, who are usually better paid and may be in more responsible positions.

Some unions seem reluctant to represent agency workers. When I talked to colleagues about being involved in a union, most did not believe that the union could do anything, and some did not even think they were allowed to join.

Agencies are often appallingly run. For people who chose to work bank holidays, they would receive only the usual rate. At my workplace, a fourth shift was added, for a derisory extra 50p an hour, despite the fact that those working it would be doing, in some cases, a 60-hour week. I could barely manage a 45-hour week because I had a one and a half hour commute, as I could find no jobs in my local area!

Nonetheless it was not uncommon for the agency to ring me up and ask me to come in for a shift which was due to start in half an hour. Yet people who could not attend a shift could face dismissal if they did not inform them the previous day!

Wages of 6 or 7 an hour are barely enough to get by on, especially when shifts are so erratic, making it difficult to plan the week. Many of my colleagues had families which made an already impossible situation even worse.

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In The Socialist 1 February 2012:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Bankers bonus scandal - Fight this profit-mad system

Trade unionists and socialists prepare for May elections

What is the point of Labour MPs?

Dead end in Davos

Them & Us


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Don't let the racist EDL divide us

Disabled protesters demand scrapping of 'welfare' bill

Haringey takes action against academies

Coventry: Re-elect Dave Nellist


Socialist Party youth and students

NUS: name the day for student walkout

Save Derbyshire youth services!

Only one in six 'vacancies' real

Tough conditions for agency workers

South East Wales youth plan new campaigns


International socialist news and analysis

EU summit - no capitalist solutions to the spiralling eurozone crisis

Interview: the Tunisian revolution one year on


Socialist Party workplace news

Pensions battle: Unions must campaign for coordinated strike action in March

London Docklands transport workers win Olympics deal

Unison pensions cowardice

Remploy workers fight privatisation

Jet tanker drivers continue strike action

Workplace news in brief


The Socialist - readers' comments

Debate: Should socialists support the HS2 rail line?

Are the Greens a real alternative?

Smacking not the answer

Obituary: Gwenda Beishon


 

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