I’ve used this blog in the past to highlight the problem of temporary and agency workers: i.e. people who do basically the same jobs as permanent or contract employees, but draw less pay and enjoy fewer employment rights, simply because they happen to be employed through an intermediary.
The media doesn’t seem that interested in the issue although the agency workers do have some good Labour politicians on their side.
So how are they dealing with the credit crunch?
According to Felicity Lawrence, the answer is: not well.
At the time of the last recession agency working was largely confined to seasonal jobs in food, agriculture and construction. Now it is endemic across the whole economy from building sites to care homes, from food factories to car factories, from steelworks to the communications industry.
To show how far this casualisation had spread, in 2007 Amicus (now part of Unite the union) pointed to a few examples: the BMW factory in Birmingham where two-thirds of the 700 shop floor workers were local agency staff and the Cowley works where 1,200 out of 4,700 workers were from agencies; Corus, the steel company, between 5,000 and 10,000 of the 23,500 workers around the country have been agency workers at various points in time; and BT has had periods when it has employed about 10,000 agency workers.
The benefits and cost savings of this casualisation have fallen to business in the last decade, but as so often it will be the state that picks up the tab of the flexible labour market now.
But I like to stay positive. Since I last wrote about the issue there has been some kind of compromise agreement hammered out – it’s not good enough, but temps will have more rights than they did. And this isn’t over.
Another reason to look on the bright side is that recruitment consultants are affected by recession too.
Indeed, the Daily Mail reported this month that:
After months of insisting that it has not seen the worst effects of the recession, recruitment agency Michael Page International today put out the inevitable profit warning and said it is cutting 400 of its own workers.
Shares in the group, which have fallen from a high of nearly 600p last year, dived another 10 per cent today, off 18¼p at 174¾p.
Have a lean Christmas, arseholes!