The treatment of Agency workers at BMW's Cowley plant underlines the brutal side of the economic downturn. The Union at Cowley it seems took the brunt of the flak from these vulnerable workers who 'enjoy' worse rights than their full time colleagues they work along side.
Tragically the law is on the side of the employer and they can dismiss the Agency Workers at a moments notice. A lot of them probably realise this weakness after all they signed contracts and were given terms and conditions that outline their weakness. Remember as well, the employer of these workers is, I assume Manpower, who were given the nod to release the 850.
There is an important lesson for the union. Negotiate an agreement with the client company, in this case BMW, that gives notice periods and lay off/redundancy pay no less favourable than the rest of the workforce. Make sure the Agency workers are represented by elected shop stewards and force the client to recognise them along side the BMW stewards. Once an agreement is in place it would be enforceable by collective action if necessary.
No one wants to work for an agency by choice as BERR have stated. The flexibility that the government and employer worship is completely meaningless in the current economic downturn and while there will be always a steady stream of applicants forced into an employment relationship with an Agency, let us be clear that without full employment rights workers will be used and dumped at the click of a finger.
The Government should have dealt with this problem years ago. To their shame we are still waiting.
(PS I was very surprised that the only action taken by these workers was to have a go at the Convenors and scratch a few cars. A wildcat occupation would have soon got the Employer and the Government to sit up and take notice.)