Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/703/13662
The Socialist 1 February 2012 |
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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.