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Retailers accused of undercutting wages by TUC

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Workers union the TUC has accused bosses of undercutting wages by keeping people on agency contracts for extended periods of time, a tactic used across numerous industries including retail, distribution, banking, and manufacturing.

According to new research, the TUC states that 6 in 10 (422,000) agency workers are being employed in the same role at the same workplace for more than a year, while 1 in 3 (300,000) have been in the same role for over two years, and 1 in 6 (122,000) have been in the same role for more than five years.

The TUC claims that employers are deliberately paying these workers less than their permanent colleagues, using a loophole, dubbed the “the Undercutters’ Charter”, which allows bosses to pay agency staff less, even when they do identical roles to permanent colleagues.

As a result agency workers are paid 1.50 pounds less an hour, on average, than permanent staff. However, at some workplaces this pay penalty can be as high as 4 pounds an hour or 7 pounds for those working anti-social shifts.

The report shows that young workers are particularly risk of being trapped in insecure agency work, with two-fifths of agency staff employed for more than a year are aged 16-35.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employers are keeping people on agency contracts to drive down wages. Two people working next to each other, doing the same job, should get the same wage. But bosses are exploiting a loophole in the law that allows them to pay agency workers less.

“The government must scrap this loophole now – it’s an Undercutters’ Charter. The Taylor Review called for agency workers to stop being treated like second-class citizens. Ministers must get on with ending the Undercutters’ Charter.”