Agency Worker Directive
IBEC seeks 12 month wait on full rights for agency staff
EMPLOYERS HAVE argued there should be a waiting period of 12 months before staff provided to companies through agencies should have access to the same terms and conditions as their permanent personnel.
The employer’s group IBEC also maintains that some of the 35,000- 40,000 positions held by agency staff around the country would be lost if an EU directive that allows for agency staff to be treated in the same way as directly recruited staff was implemented in Ireland in full and without change.
The Irish Times reported yesterday that the Minister for Enterprise and Jobs Richard Bruton had signalled in a confidential letter to unions and employers that he intended to seek cabinet approval for an effective derogation from this directive.
The directive is due to be transposed into Irish law by early December.
In the absence of an agreement between unions and employers on a derogation from the directive, agency workers would be entitled under the directive to equal treatment in terms of basic pay and conditions from their first day in the job.
It is understood that Mr Bruton met representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and IBEC to consider the agency worker directive on Wednesday night.
The Minister pointed out to unions and employers that in some countries a qualifying period of six months had been set down before the principle of equal treatment between agency personnel and permanent staff applied.
In the UK this qualifying period is set at 12 weeks.
Yesterday, IBEC director Brendan McGinty said his organisation wanted the qualifying period to be set at 12 months.
He also suggested there should be some form of opt-out for small companies.
However, in a statement yesterday SIPTU, the Republic’s largest union, said it wanted to see “an end to the exploitation of agency workers”.
It said it would reject any attempt to negotiate a derogation from the directive.
Labour Party sources said the party was unaware of the Minister’s proposals until they were reported in this newspaper yesterday.
Privately, a number of backbenchers expressed anger at Mr Bruton’s proposed reforms but have declined to speak on the record.
Labour Galway East TD Colm Keaveney, a prominent critic of the Minister’s proposals to reform joint labour committees during the summer, said the issue was a “non-story” because the matter would be decided through consultation between ICTU and the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation.
Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy claimed the proposals represented an attack on all workers, with agency staff being used as a “battering ram” to lower wages and conditions for others.