Monday, 16 February 2009

Fire and Forget

BMW management at Cowley should feel lucky they were pelted only with fruit when they sacked 850 agency workers with just one hour's notice this morning. Angry staff could easily have taken tools and car components to them instead.

New Labour seem genuinely proud that workers in Britain are among the easiest to hire and fire in the EU, and staff employed through job agencies are easier still. These workers do qualify for the minimum wage and are covered by workplace health and safety and anti-discrimination legislation. But that's your lot. Agency workers cannot claim unfair dismissal nor are they entitled to redundancy or notice of termination. In effect, they are second class workers.

The callous scenes at Cowley are unlikely to be a one off. According to the BBC, 1.4 million people are employed by agencies in the UK. Thats an awful lot of workers bosses can quickly dump with a minimum of fuss.

Just goes to show what's good for business is often crap for workers.

Sort-of-related plug: A collection of Socialist Party articles on the car industry
here.

Edited to add: It was actually the local union representatives who earned the ire of the workers. According to C4 news, Unite knew about the job losses before Christmas, but BMW had asked them to keep mum. Small wonder one interviewed worker said the union was in management's pocket. Who can blame her if she doesn't sign up to a union in the future?

8 comments:

Robert said...

New labour same Tory attitudes.

Brother S said...

It is simply appalling. Five years service and they get one hour's notice and no redundancy pay. A perfect example of the 'flexible workforce' which the neo-liberalists were so keen to promote. I wonder how many of these workers were Unite members?

The Sentinel said...

For once, pretty much agreed.

Absolutely disgraceful and contemptuous treatment.

"In the end, the Labour party could cease to represent labour. Stranger historic ironies have happened"

Mick said...

Don't know about the car industry, but in many other industries such as teaching, nursing and IT, the agency staff receive a higher hourly rate to compensate for reduced job security and lack of benefits.

It's a well understood bargain.

So by and large, agency staff have no grounds for complaint. But as I say, I don't know about the car industry and I would agree that the management handled it particularly badly.

Jacqui said...

The fact is, a lot of employers (particularly larger employers) will pay higher hourly rates for agency staff. As is common knowledge, agency staff recieve less pay than there directly employed co workers, because agencies cream off so much of it.

My boyfriend worked at a lorry maitenence place I think where he was getting £3.50 an hour even though it was costing the emplyer £12 ph or something like that.

The agencies invent taxes and tariffs and charges to take off your pay check each week, and the employers go for it because it keeps the workforce on a merry go round, and undermines union organising. I know ManPower and Blue Arrow wont touch you if you have been in a union.


Mick, all but one of the jobs I have had had been through an agency, and in my experience, the agency staff are always taking home less, and treated worse.

The only reason agencies do so well is because people have no choice but to go from them since the job centres have been cut back and set on the road to privatisation, you can't find "help" getting back into work anywhere else!

Highlander said...

Ashamed to say Unite is my union - doesn't exactly help recruitment when you get fiascos like this.

Like Brother S said, I also wonder how many were union members. It may well be the case that their pay was low enough that they were put off joining by the subs - but that would need looking into. Either way, the fact the union kept stum is a disgrace.

DaisyDeadhead said...

The reason BMW's USA-HQ is here in South Carolina is that this is what is known as a "right to work" (snort) state, i.e. no unions.

Anonymous said...

Unite is my union. Im a bit embarrased by what is happening at Cowley but still think Unite is a good union.
We cant afford to be choosey about unions. Change from within if things need to change which obviously they do.
I have heard bad things about a lot of unions including the RMT but would always advise lay members to reclaim their union.