The exploitation of agency workers, often young people, is a major concern for the GSD. Many are paid the minimum wage for years, often doing the same job as their public servant counterparts with poor leave entitlements. It is not as if the taxpayer saves a lot of money. The reason for that is that it is the recruitment agency that employees the agency worker and then places that agency worker within a Government department, agency or authority. Those recruitment agencies gets paid substantially more for that worker’s hourly labour than they then pay the worker. So for example, last week some of our MPs met a group of workers paid the minimum wage by the relevant recruitment agency when that agency was being paid 60% more by the public authority. Some owners of recruitment consultants are, therefore, minting it at tax payer and worker expense.
Moreover, through the simple device of moving agency workers around from one part of the public service to another (e.g. Care Agency to the GHA) or changing their role before 52 weeks are up, the Government prevents those workers from acquiring the same pay and leave conditions as their permanent public service counterparts as they would otherwise be entitled under the Agency Workers Regulations 2012. Under those regulations if an agency worker is employed in the same role for more than 52 weeks he or she will acquire the right to the “same working and employment conditions” as permanent employees doing the same job. It is a sad state of affairs that a Socialist Government relies on legal loopholes to prevent workers from accruing employment rights.
This is not only a worker exploitation issue. A parallel public service run by agency workers in insecure jobs is being created. It is affecting moral within the wider public service with an inevitable knock on effect on the service provided to ultimate service users.
The problem is also compounded by the failure of the Government to fill genuine vacancies in the civil service and its propensity to hide behind the mantra that there are no vacancies in the non-civil service parts of the public service “because there is no fixed complement” in order to avoid advertising posts. That in turn contributes to the number of individuals acting in posts for long periods of time.
Daniel Feetham MP said
“We need to have meetings with all the Unions before we finalise our policy but what we are proposing is that agency workers should only be used where there is a genuine need for supply labour and no one should be exploited as a long term source of cheap labour. We will ensure that genuine vacancies within both the civil service and the wider public service (e.g. within authorities and agencies) are advertised. This would allow, depending on the post and where it is open, existing civil servants and public servants together with agency workers to apply. We will also reform the Agency Workers Regulations 2012 to close legal loopholes preventing workers from acquiring rights. Those employed within the public service (no matter which part and in what role) for 52 weeks will acquire the same working and employment conditions, including pay and leave entitlement, as their permanent counterparts.”