Agency Action Day: workers cheated on pay
On Wednesday 16th January events will take place at call centres around the country to highlight the exploitation of agency workers thanks to a loophole in the law which is costing workers more than £500 a month in lost wages at some sites.
Members of the Communication Workers Union will be highlighting the problem to agency workers with badges, stunts and photos-ops. Agency workers should receive equal treatment after 12 weeks in a job, following legislation brought in in October 2011, but a legal loophole allows 'Pay Between Assignment' (PBA) contracts, which sign away agency workers' rights to equal pay. Many agency workers are signing these contracts without realising the implications.
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said: "These contracts are legal, but in the same way that the legal tax arrangements of Starbucks, Amazon and many celebrities are morally wrong, we believe these contracts fly in the face of fairness.
"Both agencies and hirers are at fault for choosing to use these contracts which sign away workers' rights to equal pay, rather than sticking to the spirit of the new legislation which had equal pay at its heart. Agency staff earning less than the Living Wage are losing out to the tune of £500 or more a month. They're entitled to equal pay but are being exploited. This loophole should be closed.
"We're asking companies and agencies to stop using these PBA contracts. Most people signing up with an agency don't realise what rights they're signing away and it's irresponsible and dishonest to exploit often low-paid workers in this way. We'd also like government to look at this issue as it's clearly in contradiction to the spirit of the law."
The comparison in each case is between an agency worker on a PBA contract and an agency worker on a zero hours contract who has achieved equal treatment as per the 2011 agency regulations. They are all based on call centre workers.
Dundee: £6.25/h vs £8.37/h which for 37.5 hour week is £320 difference per month
Gosforth: £6.75/h vs £8.35/h which for 37.5 hour week is £240 a month worse off
Lincoln: £7.50/h vs £11.38/h which for 37.5 hour week is £584 a month worse off
Nottingham: £6.80/h vs £9.85/h which for 37.5 hour week is £456 a month worse off
Warrington: £7.50/h vs £8.53/h which for a 36 hour week is £150 a month worse off
More than 1,000 agency workers working for Manpower/BT are on these contracts. Industry bodies say that between 17 per cent and 30 per cent of all agency workers are now affected by these contracts (Eversheds 2012, REC 2012).
Events will take place in:
Blackburn - 8am - 3pm 3-5 Jubilee Street, Blackburn, Lancs, BB1 1EP
Canterbury - Becket House, New Dover Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 3BB
Doncaster - 8am start at BT Call Centre, Wilmington Drive, Doncaster, S Yorkshire, DN4 5PQ
Gosforth - 9am start at Gosforth Park Way, Alters' Lane, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE12 8ET
Lancaster - 7:30am start at BT Telephone Exchange, Cawthorne Street, Lancaster, LA1 1TG
***Photo-op 12 noon on Town Hall steps with local politicians***
Lincoln - 7am - 3pm BT Call Centre, 4 Ruston Road, Lincoln, LN1 7TS
Nottingham - 9am start at 2 Castle Wharf, 2 Canal Street, Nottingham, NG1 7BT
South Shields - 12 noon start at One Harton Quay, South Shields, South Tyneside, NE33 1SJ
Warrington - 7:30am start at 110 Europa Boulevard, Warrington, Cheshire, WA5 7FZ
Dundee 9:30am - 2pm at Telephone House, 21 Ward Road, Dundee, DD1 1BA
***Photo-op 11:30 - 12 noon with local MSP Jenny Marre***
Glasgow 8am - 12 noon at Dial House, Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 6TS
Portadown BT Telephone Exchange, Carrickblacker Road, Portadown BT63 5AX Craigavon, Co Armagh
Newport 7:30am start at Telecom House, Factory Road, Newport, Gwent, NP20 5FA
Campaigners and agency workers will be available for interview. For more information visit our website: www.cwu.org/agency-loopholes.html or follow the Twitter hashtag #AgencyLoophole
Will Buchanan is an agency worker on a Pay Between Assignment contract working in a call centre in Lincoln. He earns £7.50 an hour for a 37.5 hour week which is £584 a month less than agency workers who achieved equal pay. He started in November 2011.
Will says: "When I signed up with the agency they told us to sign the contract, but none of us realised what it meant. We only found out when our CWU rep told us that other agency workers were getting a pay rise and we weren't - we'd probably still be in the dark otherwise.
"It's legal, but it seems unethical and carried out in an underhand way. It was glossed over when I signed up. It makes you feel second class and it's an awkward situation."