Employment Agencies in the NHS

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2008 Health Care Service Group Conference
5 December 2007

Conference notes the excellent article in the November 2007 edition of UNISON In-Focus magazine concerning the TUC Campaign “Speaking up for Vulnerable Workers.”

Conference notes. It is quite likely a large number of the figure estimated in the article (ranging from 250,000 to a million) work covering Agency, Casual and Migrant workers are employed in the NHS

These workers are at the mercy of Employment Agencies offering worse terms, conditions, pay than to directly employed NHS workers. They are not entitled to family-friendly rights such as maternity and paternity leave. They are often excluded from training opportunities, lose out on legal protection from unfair dismissal, on redundancy payments, statutory sick pay and have to suffer poor health and safety conditions,

For migrant workers the conditions may be worse in suffering illegal deductions of pay in covering transport, clothing and losing out on holiday entitlement. Research has shown they are subject to abuse, including levels of exploitation and control that meet the international legal definition of forced labour.

While the National AFC Agreement for NHS Private Contractors sets out the conditions of full implementation from 1st October 2006 covering “soft facilities management” contracts that all staff employed on contracts for service covered by this agreement will be employed on terms and conditions (excluding pensions) that are no less favourable than those set out in the NHS AFC Staff Handbook.

These conditions are not possible for Agency Workers, such as in NHSSC, who are employed through several agencies particularly Primetime Agency, where their pay is considerably lower than AFC pay rates .

Conference calls on the Health Care Service Group Executive:-

1)To investigate through UNISON Bargaining Support Group. Employment Agency Companies such as Primetime, who provide Agency Staff to NHSSC , which in the first 18th months of the 10 year contract are considerable higher than usual number of agency/casual workers normally recruited to reflect seasonal peaks in the supply chain;

2)To support and promote the TUC Commission on Vulnerable Employment in investigate the issues faced by vulnerable workers;

3)To remind and ensure the Government produces domestic legislation that will protect vulnerable workers, as promised in the Warwick agreement. If this is not forthcoming in a reasonable period of time, then to consider appropriate action/campaigns highlighting the Government desire to renegade on this legalization in supporting the wishes of big businesses;

4)To campaign for a substantial pay rises in 2008/9 and 2009/10 across the NHS to be at least equal to current inflation rates for all NHS workers included those employed by private contractors and agencies;

5)To name and shame disreputable Employment Agencies and the relevant NHS Employers who considerable pay agency staff below the national AFC rates of pay;

6)To produce more UNISON recruitment literature in a variation of Eastern European languages, (such as Polish, Russian etc) as an effective tool for local branches to increase their membership;

7)To organise regional/national seminars to attract NHS workers (where English is not their first language) to join UNISON;

8)Where appropriate to support vulnerable workers through the branches, which may wish to conduct legal effective industrial actions campaigns.