UK’s biggest recruiters warn ministers not to hire agency staff to replace strikers | industrial action

Britain’s biggest recruiting and staffing firms have written to the government protesting plans to replace strikers with agency workers, warning it would further inflame strikes.

In a letter to Kwasi Kwarteng, the bosses of 13 companies including Hays, Adecco, Randstad and Manpower called on the business secretary to reconsider plans to repeal a decades-long ban on the use of agency workers to cover the picket staff.

“We can only see these proposals inflaming strikes – not ending them,” the 13 groups warned in their letter, which was sent by Sarah Thewlis, president of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

The companies said they felt ‘compelled’ to write to the Business Secretary as leaders of the UK’s biggest recruitment firms to express ‘concern’ about how the government was doing forward with the proposals, which they described as “unnecessary”.

In the face of strikes by thousands of railway workers and employees in other industries over wage offers well below the 9.1% inflation rate at a time of skyrocketing costs of living, the government introduced this week a bill.

It would remove the restriction in section 7 of the Rules of Conduct 2003 ‘preventing placement firms from bringing in or supplying agency workers to employers to replace persons taking part in a formal strike or industrial action’ .

The recruitment agencies said in the letter: ‘We strongly believe this can come at a high cost to our businesses – as we will be held responsible for sending scabs across a picket line and putting our workers at risk. It doesn’t matter if our individual companies choose not to supply – the industry will be discredited.

The companies noted that the industry contributes nearly £40bn to the UK economy each year and are keen to support future growth.

The REC said it had not yet received a response from Kwarteng.

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The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: ‘The Business Secretary makes no apologies for taking action to ensure essential services, such as train lines, are run so efficiently as possible, ensuring that the British public does not have to pay the price. for disproportionate strike action.

“Allowing companies to provide qualified temporary workers to fill staffing gaps does not oblige employment companies to do so. On the contrary, this legislation gives employers more freedom to find qualified personnel in the event of a strike if they so wish.

The government argues that a company’s ability to use agency workers does not prevent an individual from striking; and that agency workers are not required to accept a replacement role during strikes.

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