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Agency workers rights must be protected

15 January, 2008

Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has tabled a motion in the Assembly calling for protection for Agency workers. The Assembly will debate the motion today, Tuesday 15th January 2008.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"There is a huge growth in the number of Employment Agencies across the country. There are almost 600 employment agencies on the island of Ireland where we have a workforce of approximately 3 million. This compares with Poland, for example, where there are 770 agencies for 40 million workers.

"Increasing numbers of people are employed through Employment Agencies yet we need to be wary of if we are to protect workers against the erosion of their rights.

"A disproportionate number of workers employed through agencies are unable to access equal working terms and conditions to directly recruited workers. Recent research in Britain highlights the fact that agency workers are, on average, paid only 68% of the directly paid workforces' earnings, had fewer entitlements, are younger than their directly employed counterparts and have less control over the work they do.

"Following the recent announcement of the loss of over 900 jobs at Seagate in Limavady it transpired that a number of the workers were contracted through Employment Agencies and not entitled to the same redundancy packages as directly employed workers.

"We must not allow this method of worker recruitment to become prevalent in our society as it serves only to diminish workers rights and rates of remuneration while absolving mainly multi-national conglomerates of their obligations of providing statutory and other benefits to agency workers.

"There is a growing concern that the growth in the Employment Agency sector creates the conditions for exploitation and abuse of these workers. I believe that it is a basic right that workers must be employed on the basis of equal Pay for equal Work.

"Sinn Féin supports proposals contained within the EU draft agency workers directive to give temporary workers full pay and conditions on completion of 6 weeks employment.

"We do not support the efforts of the Irish, British or Hungarian governments, currently the only three states in Europe without protective legislation for agency workers, to extend this qualifying period of 6 weeks.

"We reject the Irish and British governments position that economic viability can only be achieved on the back of our most vulnerable workers left in a cycle of no rights, low pay and job insecurity." ENDS

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