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Reports on SIPTU Agency Workers Meeting. November 27, 2007

Posted by guestposter in Campaigns, Unions.

Just to give this a slightly greater prominence than the comments section… two reports on the meeting from John O’Neill and D_D.

When the SIPTU leadership decide to launch a campaign they do so with style. The meeting was well organised starting with a short film of a SIPTU member who was an agency worker on a building site outlining the various forms of exploitation that agency workers are experiencing. Then there was an intro to the campaign from SIPTU followed by speakers from other unions endorsing the campaign. The meeting then asked for speakers from the floor representing Political Parties and all were given 2 minutes, PBP, SF, LP, RSF, WP all got to speak. Despite assurances from Fine Gael that they would send two representives to the meeting and a speaker they didn’t attend.The meeting was then opened to the audience with about 20+ people making short contributions. The meeting finished with a 10 minute contribution from Jack O’Connor about the importance of the campaign.Some points made at the meeting I noted were.;
If employers are allowed to continue abusing workers through Agencies this will role back all the victories won by the labour movement in the last 100 years.

There are 520 employment agencies in Ireland with a population of 4 million, Poland has 700 with a population of 40 million.

The Government along with Germany and the UK, have bloked the introduction of EU legislation to give some protection to workers employed through Agencies.

Employers are attempting to introduce Agency terms and conditions as the norm.

In workplaces where agency workers and directly employed workers both working there is the potential for conflict and division.

AW’s listed issues like only receiving 16 days leave per year, being sacked for taking annual leave, being paid flat rates for overtime, no job security despite lengthy terms in a job.

There is a need to educate workers of the implications for everyone if agencies are allowed to ignore workers rights.

One or two personal criticisms I would have of the meeting; I sensed a reluctance to get on the streets and organise demonstrations from JO’C and that the unions were not willing to allow this issue to be made a deal breaker in Partnership.

John O’Neill

A very good summary of the meeting by John. It is Hungary (not Germany), Britain and Ireland that have no legislation to protect Agency workers. (Though Germany may have been involved in some recent blocking action, I don’t know).

There is lots more on the Campaign on the SIPTU website (siptu.ie) including a PDF of a leaflet, a ‘What you can do’ bit and various statements. (Look under Campaigns & Current Issues). As John remarks, it’s important that the campaign assumes real substance, good and all as the words so far have been. There is a good pamphlet available from Liberty Hall and the Union have just produced an updated briefing document. The pamphlet includes the excellent policy on the issue adopted by the NEC of SIPTU. I reproduce that below.

contributed by D_D.

SIPTU Policy on Agency Workers

The potential for exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers and the parallel undermining of well established standards through the use of Employment Agencies has been evident for some time.

The absence of dedicated statutory protection facilitates the circumvention of progressive employment legislation such as the Protection of Employment (Part-Time Work) Act 2001/Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term work) Act 2003.

Some progress was achieved in the T2016 Agreement. This provides for the enactment of legislation to regularise the situation to some degree, e.g. entitling such workers to the protection of Registered Employment Agreements, etc. However, the principle of equal treatment remains to be won.

This will entail a determined industrial/political campaign.

It is critically important that we maintain a disciplined progressive industrial policy towards the issue in every workplace.

Where possible we should seek to resist the introduction of agency workers and seek to have all new workers employed on regular contracts of employment by the beneficial employer.

Where this is not achievable we must seek to ensure that Employment Agency workers are subject to a collective agreement specifying terms and conditions of employment including but not limited to:

* Clearly restricting the circumstances in which ‘agencies’ would be employed, (e.g. to cater for temporary or fluctuating demands, etc.) and specifying a maximum period beyond which the worker must become a direct employee.
* Providing for equal pay with directly employed workers performing the same or similar work or work of equal value.
* Entitling workers employed by ‘Agencies’ to the right to trade union representation. (In so far as possible they should also provide for trade union induction on commencement)

We must also vigilantly apply ourselves to the task of organising all ‘agency workers’ in unionised workplaces.

This must extend beyond simply recruiting these workers into our Organisation. It also entails ensuring that the workers concerned elect shop stewards (or representatives on Union Section Committees were appropriate). This is particularly important in the case of non-Irish workers.

It is important that the regular workforce understand the need to organise agency workers and the threat unorganised, under paid and maltreated workers pose to their own terms and conditions of employment.

Furthermore it is important to ensure that open lines of communications are maintained between the regular workforce and agency workers and that they are not ghettoised and alienated from other workers or union structures.

Regional Secretaries/National Industrial Secretaries will provide support on the implementation of this policy.

Adopted by SIPTU’s National Executive Council on Thursday May 31, 2007


1. Hugh Murphy - December 3, 2007

Ask Jack O’Connor about the Belfast Dockers.

Just Google for the answer


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