Yesterday I sent this letter to a range of trade union general secretaries in an attempt to urge them to hold firm in negotiations with Gordon Brown on the Agency Workers Bill to be debated in Parliament today. This Bill is the least the Government could do to prevent the exploitation of some of the most vulnerable workers in our society. I urge all trade unionists to do all they can to ensure that their union maintains the pressure for action on the Government otherwise we will lose the opportunity for another decade.
"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Re: Agency Workers Bill
I am writing on the eve of the debate on the Agency Workers Bill. I understand from Andrew Miller MP that trade union general secretaries are meeting the Prime Minister on Monday to discuss the issue of agency workers in the light of the progress this Bill.
I fully support the Bill and I am confident that we can marshall sufficient forces tomorrow to secure a second reading of the Bill.
As you will be aware from various talks and media briefings, it is clear that as a result of lobbying by the CBI the Prime Minister is seeking to establish a commission of inquiry to examine the need for legislation involving representatives from the CBI and TUC.
I am firmly of the view that the need for legislation to protect agency and temporary workers has already been proved and that there has been too long a delay by the Government in acting to protect these vulnerable workers. For this reason I believe the proposal to establish a commission should be rejected and the Prime Minister should be urged to move swiftly to legislation using the Miller private members bill as the basis for this legislation.
However if the Prime Minister remains intransigent and insists upon establishing a commission I would urge that as a minimum condition the commission must be set up and report during the period in which the Parliamentary Bill Committee considering the Miller Bill is sitting so that any amendments to the Bill resulting from the commissions’ deliberations could be taken at report stage of the Bill and that Royal Assent to the Bill should be guaranteed by the end of the current session, that is no later than October this year. In addition the terms of reference of any commission must reflect that the contents of the Miller Bill are the absolute minimum acceptable to the Labour and trade union movement.
If the Prime Minister refuses to accept this compromise approach we should proceed with the Bill as far as possible through its Parliamentary stages, whilst mounting a ferocious campaign throughout our movement and within the wider community calling Ministers and MPs to account.