Brussels Threatens UK Jobs Nov02

Bashir Khanbhai, Conservative MEP for the East of England, has condemned the controversial Agency Workers Directive, which will introduce more unnecessary red tape and huge costs threatening the jobs of thousands of temporary agency workers in the UK.

The Directive, due to be voted through the European Parliament next week, specifies that after a six-week period, a temporary worker can claim comparability on pay and benefits with an 'equivalent' employee doing the same or similar job within the company.

Around 700,000 people are working as temporary agency workers at any one time in the UK, which represents half the entire figure for agency workers across the EU, and is one of the major reasons why the UK has the most flexible economy in Europe.

Speaking from Brussels, Mr Khanbhai said: "Behind the Agency Workers Directive is the suspicion that temporary workers are an exploited group. In the UK, this is generally not the case as most temporary workers choose this work pattern to fit in with their home and lifestyle requirements.

"Such flexible arrangements offer a route back into work for those who have been out of the workforce through sickness and pregnancy and for others, it is a bridge to permanent employment, allowing new entrants and low skilled workers to gain experience whilst they are earning.

"The East of England, in particular, has many food processing firms, horticultural suppliers and farmers where the work is largely seasonal. These employers rely on temporary workers to cope with their busy periods and would be seriously affected by this new law.

"The impact for the UK could be devastating. SMEs are likely to reduce their use of temporary workers, putting around 170,000 jobs at risk. Some companies will be forced to increase consumer prices on goods and services and reduce the pay and benefits of existing permanent staff in order to carry the costs of equalisation.

"The present UK regulatory framework already guarantees basic employment rights such as the national minimum wage, working time regulations and health and safety regulations and offers a clear balance between flexibility and protection for agency workers. This additional red tape from Brussels is simply not necessary and I will be voting to amend these proposals so that the interests of our agencies and workers are protected!"