24th June 2022

Is protecting workers’ rights realistic given the challenges faced by employers?


Are workers’ rights out of step with today’s operating environment?

For temporary staff, particularly in disciplines where high-level skills are in short supply, there is something of a trade-off. Generally, in return for a high rate of pay, high skills contractors and freelancers get few rights, with no job security, no say or influence, and no office politics. And that suits many, thank you very much!

However, for others, the topic of workers’ rights can be a bit thorny. In a time of accelerating change, it makes sense to continually review and alter job descriptions and packages so that they remain appropriate and realistic. The argument is, quite simply, that today’s operating environment and the challenges faced by employers requires far greater flexibility from workers.

Too powerful Vs. Powerless

For employers, especially where organised labour is unionised, workers’ rights can be the source of dissatisfaction, with employed workers seemingly too powerful in their ability to resist change. The current labour dispute with rail workers and others that may be brewing in the UK public sector are examples of this.

On the flipside, for workers in highly commoditised jobs where there is no unionisation, it can seem that they are powerless and must accept whatever changes to pay and conditions are tabled. Changes to contracts and reductions in pay simply have to be swallowed.

This might seem typical of gig economy jobs. However, in the US there are contrasting attitudes to organised labour within some commoditised skills workplaces, evidenced through activity at Amazon and Starbucks.

Governments and companies testing workers’ rights policies

The UK government is seeking to reduce the power of organised labour through legislation that allows workers on strike to be replaced by agency staff. This would reduce the impact of future rail strikes in the UK.

This has echoes of P&O Ferries replacing 800 full-time employed UK staff with agency workers earlier this year. Back then, the government declared the actions of P&O illegal; now it seems it wants to make it standard operating practice…!

In Australia, the national carrier Qantas which is something of a source of Aussie pride – ‘a national treasure’ – seems to have invited something of a brand disaster by forcing the redundancy of 2,000 baggage handlers and outsourcing their roles to a specialist aviation staffing provider.

This is still the subject of High Court legal action as the airline appeals the ruling of the Federal Court that Qantas violated section 341B of the Fair Work Act, which protects employees’ rights to bargain and take protected industrial action.

Agencies are better prepared for the challenges of today with ETZ

The policies that currently protect workers’ rights do not seem a good fit with the realities of today’s operating environment. The direction of travel seems to be towards a more pragmatic approach.

Whatever changes the recruitment market undergoes, you can be sure ETZ’s leading timesheet, invoicing and payment platform streamlines the back office processing of your recruitment agency.

ETZ is the RecTech partner of choice, helping agencies to navigate the pitfalls and obtain excellent value from technology. To find out more, call us on 0800 311 2266 or book a demo.

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