Many people accept that there are circumstances where using agency temps makes sense, particularly to cover short periods of increased workload or to cover for absences. But for years many employers abused agency temps, which was bad for the temps and also undermined the position of permanent directly-employed staff – undercutting their pay and benefits and creating a divided workforce that was in a weaker position to push for a better deal.
Unions were central to the campaign which eventually led to the Agency Worker Regulations (AWR) coming into force in 2011, which provide some limited protection for agency temps, as set out in UNITE’s guide.
UNITE is extremely concerned about Fujitsu’s implementation of the AWR – the company’s explanations have been evasive and inconsistent. Reps would welcome agency temps confidentially discussing how they are being treated so that UNITE can build up a clearer picture. Agency temps are fully entitled to join the union and would be well advised to do so.
Fujitsu and the agencies it uses (primary Kelly Services) share responsibility for adherence to AWR, which includes a right to be paid no less than if employed directly. Yet by late August Fujitsu said “The company has had no conversations with third party agencies about pay for their people as we consider that this is a matter for them to agree within their own organisations based on their company performance, the market they operate within and affordability (within their obligations defined in the Agency Workers regulations)”. Kelly’s can only apply the AWR based on information provided by Fujitsu, so this failure on Fujitsu’s part may have contributed to Kelly Services staff reporting not having received a pay rise equivalent to permanent staff.
Agency staff need to organise to protect their rights, and permanent staff should encourage, help and support this to avoid being undercut by agency labour.
Fujitsu has created a new subsidiary called Fujitsu Services (Engineering Services) Limited into which it is recruiting new staff, as well as “offering roles to existing temps and perms. FSESL staff are working alongside Fujitsu Services staff doing the same roles, so the threat of downward pressure on pay and conditions for everyone is very clear.
UNITE has seen examples of FSESL contracts of employment, which include:
- Statutory minimum holidays
- Annualised hours
- 42 hours a week, which means that even after taking all holidays, staff are still working an average of about 37.5 hours a week
- No company pension contributions
- No company sick pay
- Expected to do overtime, but no premium even on bank holidays
- Waiver of the limit of 48 hours a week
- Life assurance at 2x (half the Fujitsu standard)
- Right to vary terms by individual or general notice after “reasonable notice” and “discussion” i.e. no consultation
This should give us a clue what contracts Fujitsu would like us all on.
By creating this subsidiary, Fujitsu may hope to get round quite a lot of employment legislation for example AWR. Fujitsu also claims they are not entitled to be represented through Fujitsu Voice. But FSESL staff DO have rights. For example, an FSESL employee might be able to bring an Equal Pay claim using a Fujitsu Services employee as the comparator. FSESL staff have the right to be represented in the discussions about setting up a European Works Council giving the reps involved in that rights to communicate with them.
FSESL staff need to organise to protect their rights, and all staff should encourage, help and support this to avoid being undercut.