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Sparks junk agency plan

NEWS - Shop stewards reject employment business forum idea to give employment agencies more say

AMICUS shop stewards have rejected plans put forward by employers to give employment agencies more sway in the electrical contracting sector.

The union reps threw out proposals from the Electrical Contractors' Association for a new employment business forum that would give more formal representation to agencies.

It is understood employers want to review Rule 17 of the JIB's working rule agreement. This says agency operatives can never be in the majority on a JIB project under normal circumstances.

The proposed membership of the new business forum is understood to include four agency representatives, one ECA rep, a major contractor and a JIB observer, overseen by an independent chairman.

Amicus assistant general-secretary Les Bayliss and national construction officer Tom Hardacre presented the plans to the shop stewards committee amid great secrecy.

It is understood both men made the committee sign for documents and then collected the rejected plans back in at the end of the meeting.

Amicus is understood to gain around £1 million in lump sum union membership payments from the ECA through the JIB arrangements every year.

Insiders said the move to bring in the agencies could potentially double the cash for the union.

One shop steward said: 'This is about money. Agencies already have to get the ECS card to work on site but bringing them further in would mean employers and the unions would gain more money if they have to buy credits under the JIB's obligatory benefits scheme.'

The ECA's head of employee relations, Alex Meikle, said: 'We are supportive of direct employment and this should not be seen as a move away from that, but we have to ref lect the reality that 50 per cent of people in electrical contracting work through agencies.

'We are on the verge of a skills shortage and we expect incoming workers in the sector, especially through agencies.

The agencies would not be part of the JIB, but through the forum the aim is to benchmark JIB terms and conditions for agency staff.'