Jump to main content
IndustriALL logotype

Unions fight back against the explosion of agency labour

  • The Triangular Trap - unions say no to the explosion of agency labour

2 October, 2012IndustriALL Global Union released ‘The Triangular Trap’ today, 2 October, a new report attacking the massive expansion of the use of agency work and demanding direct, secure and decent employment.

“Employment via agencies, labour brokers, dispatchers and contractors is being used to wholesale replace permanent, direct employment. Its use goes way beyond any legitimate need to fill genuinely temporary vacancies,” said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.

Massive expansion

The Triangular Trap’ reports that the “according to the global agency industry body, the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (Ciett) the industry’s global annual sales revenue increased from €83 billion in 1996 to €203 billion in 2009 and the number of agency workers has more than doubled over the same period.”

The defining characteristic of agency labour is a triangular relationship between the user enterprise, the agency and the worker, isolating the worker from the enterprise that effectively controls their work, their pay and their conditions so that the worker has no say in any of them and has no mechanism to negotiate improvements.

The result is agency workers typically receive lower wages than directly hired workers performing the same work and they are excluded from numerous benefits and face higher health and safety risks. Agency workers are also typically unable to join a union or bargain collectively.

“Employers all over the world are taking advantage of laws which allow them to replace their permanent workforces with agency workers in order to avoid their employment obligations,” said Raina.

Industry lobbying to increase use of agency labour

The report exposes how agencies and Ciett gloss over the negative consequences of agency work in their lobbying efforts to remove legal restrictions on agency work. In a chapter on busting the myths put forward by Ciett, The Triangular Trap cites numerous examples from workers and unions around the world who are fighting against the negative impact of agency work.

IndustriALL is launching ‘The Triangular Trap’ as part of its global campaign to stop precarious work. On October 7, the World Day for Decent Work, IndustriALL affiliates mobilized their members to take action against the spread of agency work and other forms of precarious employment.

“With ‘The Triangular Trap’ IndustriALL is sending a message to business and governments worldwide that we will not sit quietly while workers’ rights and the labour standards and protections that have been achieved through union struggle are undermined by agency work,” said Raina.