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( press clipping - Financial Times,  2008 ) 

UK tries to save face on agency staff rights
By Sarah Laitner in Brussels, Jean Eaglesham in London,and Ben Hall in Paris
Published in the Financial Times Europe on 9th of April 08

Britain is trying to strike a behind-the-scenes European Union deal on bolstering temporary workers' rights that would minimise the risk of an embarrassing defeat in Brussels.
The UK government is holding talks with the European Commission over planned EU legislation on agency staff after blocking the proposal, along with a handful of other countries, for four years.
An agreement could pave the way for a union-wide deal over the measure. The legislative logjam over the proposal underlines European splits over social laws.
As it stands, the draft law would give "temps" full pay and conditions after six weeks in the job. Britain has argued that the legislation could impose extra costs on employers and make work less flexible. British business groups say that temps should receive full pay after a minimum of six months.
But the UK has been left increasingly isolated in its opposition, and a meeting of EU employment ministers in December showed a majority of member states wanted to push for its approval.
The next meeting with the Commission is expected this week. The British government seeks confirmation that a forum that Gordon Brown, prime minister, hopes to set up with unions and employers would allow the UK to "apply the directive flexibly", according to an official.
A derogation in the proposed EU law means its provisions do not have to be applied to every agency worker, where there are collective bargaining mechanisms in place to negotiate on the worker's behalf.
The UK does not have the direct equivalent of such mechanisms. But ministers believe the new forum would fulfil this function.
Mr Brown has yet to get business or union agreement to his proposal for a forum. The government envisages the body would work along the lines of its low pay commission, agreeing the period of employment after which temps would be entitled to the same pay and treatment as permanent staff.
The Trades Union Congress said it was waiting for the government to clarify the proposed terms of reference of the new body.
Many union leaders believe the government has lost its fight in Brussels over agency workers' rights and they therefore have little incentive to accede to a domestic initiative that might reduce the impact of new European laws.
The department for business refused to comment on the negotiations with Brussels. But an official said: "We're looking for an agreement [with the Commission] . . that gives us the flexibility we need."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

 
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