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Protectionism Racket

Temps may get full work rights under EU law - Times Online
Britain looks likely to lose its fight against the EU’s proposed new rights for temporary workers. Employers argue that the change, which would give Britain’s estimated 1.3 million agency workers the same pay and workplace conditions as permanent staff, puts 250,000 jobs at risk.

Ministers have run out of allies in frantic behind-the-scenes talks to block the legislation, after finding themselves on the wrong end of a piece of classic EU horse-trading.

The TUC has long campaigned for an end to “two-tier” workers doing the same job on different pay and conditions. It warned ministers that there would be a political price to be paid if they resisted the new rights.

Reminding us yet again that the TUC is rightly only concerned for the short term interests of its permanent worker members and that its donations to the Labour Party means it pays the piper...


Having spent some years doing agency work (stopped a few years ago), as a maintenance engineer (in the City and West End mainly) I'm simply horrified by this. The whole point of agency work, temp work, is to have a different set of pay and conditions. You trade flexibility and freedom (real freedom, you can just walk off the job if it's crap) for less "job security". Before I'd done agency work, when I'd only had "proper" jobs, I'd thought that rather scary, but once I did it I much preferred it, and turned down every job offered me (and to blow my own trumpet, virtually every firm I worked for wanted me to join full time). Temping and full timing (or whatever it's called) are fundamentally different beasts. It gives you the power to negotiate your pay- if you're any good- and take time off pretty much as you wish. And frankly, working among the "full timers", the striking thing was that they were mostly working for less money than I, because they were just too institutionalised to try anything different. Sometimes you'd go to a company and some engineer would say "you play your cards right, you might get a job" and they'd be mystified when I said I didn't want one.

I'm glad I'm not doing it any more, if they're going to wreck it with abominable socialist interference.

I'd also better add I did some awful shitty agency work many years ago when I fell on 'ard times, for Manpower, as an "industrial operative" which means shit shoveller, basically, earning the princely sum of £3.00 an hour, and did the most awful jobs (bottling milk was a memorable low point) and the major thing I learned from that was to get a better job. God, I sound like an old ranty Tory now. But it's the truth. I was doing crappy work because I had negligible market value, £3.00 an hour (20p extra on nights, w00t) was all I was worth. People need to learn that lesson, rant rant.

Mind you, I had one interesting experience during that. 3 days at the Saudi Embassy, moving books because they'd had their library rebuilt. I also had to pack cartons with books for distribution to mosques, and the books therein were my first experience of revolting, extremist, misogynist, self-glorifying masturbatory wahabbist Islam and the realisation of how it was being spread- and all from a nice diplomatically immune embassy. At one point I accidentally picked up a quran, and jesus, it was like a scene in a movie where somebody's holding a bomb with a trembler switch in it, all this "don't move, put it down reaaaaaaaally slowly" stuff. I thought somebody was going to hack my offending hand off with a sword. I didn't even know it was a quran. I mean, that arab script. It's all greek to me.

I enjoy your blog and normally would feel much the same about everything you write about.However on this one there is another side.
Many of major cock-ups in the government and business world can be put down to agency contractors. In the case of the railways this has lead to loss of life.
The reason why employers like agency workers is that they cost often substantially less and they can avoid many employer responsibilities. They are useful in some cases to weaken the position of regular employees.The comment of "ex temp" after the original piece is, I suspect, the reality of the situation.

In reply to Edward above-

I think the simple fact here is that in a free country (remember them?) the government has no right to tell businesses who to employ, or on what terms. If businesses prefer to us agency staff, that's up to them. That's how a market works. Where did this idea of "employer responsibilities" come from? The only responsibility a company has is to honour any contract made with a worker. They're not social services and shouldn't be forced to act as if they are. A business offers work, and if an individual considers on an individual level that the offer is worth taking up, that's it.

Even when I was doing that awful work for three quid an hour, I chose to do it freely, because it was better for me than not earning the three quid an hour. That's the only valid choice in a free society. I didn't expect any employers to have any "responsibilities" towards me beyond paying what they'd agreed to pay me. That is IT.

As to cock-ups, it's hard to say how many are due to the use of agency staff, and how many just happen to be *by* agency staff, who are as prone to cock-ups as any other human beings. Regular staff cock-up too. Most cock-ups in governments and indeed large businesses are due to the inevitable ineffiencies and poor communications associated with large bureaucracies. That agency staff made the error is neither here nor there. It's a breakdown of management, and although one can strive to reduce that by improving management methods, the likelihood increases as some power of the number of individuals in whatever organisation. A certain error level is unavoidable. Government bureaucracies, having to market forces upon them, are particularly prone to internal failures, which is why CDgate style affairs will always happen, and why the lesson to learn from that is avoiding them having the data to lose.

As to railways, and loss of life... as a general couple of points. Firstly, the railways are still incredibly safe, but like airlines unfortunately when something crashes it's a very big headline grabbing smash. Secondly, consider the Clapham disaster. One factor highly noted in that (besides the incompetence of the full time engineer who left live ends taped up in a control panel which futzed the signalling) was the primitive test gear with which he was equipped. The sad reason for that was that frankly staff will steal anything that isn't bolted down. A railway nut friend of mine who used to drink in a railway worker's club used to buy pretty much anything engineering related he wanted off the people there, who'd report their test gear (for instance) "lost" and then sell it. That's not unique to the public sector of course, in private companies shedloads of laptops get "lost" too. Such routine theft is endemic in large organisations. Which is sort of off the point I admit, but indicates the problems with management. The use of agency staff is a minor problem.

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