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Work Bosses ‘use agency workers to suppress wages,’ finds TUC

LOW-PAID workers supplied by employment agencies are kept on for years by companies in order to undercut the wages of directly employed staff, a TUC study has found.

The study published today says that 60 per cent of agency workers are retained at the same workplace for a year to lower wage bills — over 13 per cent stay at the same firm for more than five years.

Agency workers were once used to plug temporary gaps in workforces, but they are now used as a long-term way of bringing down the pay of directly employed staff, says the TUC.

The average underpayment of agency workers is £1.50 an hour, but some are paid £4 an hour less than their directly employed counterparts.

Those working anti-social hours are underpaid by up to £7 an hour.

Industries with the highest numbers of long-term agency workers are banking and finance, distribution, manufacturing and hotels and retail, the analysis found.

The report said young people were particularly at risk of becoming “trapped” in insecure agency work. Workers aged 16 to 35 account for 20 per cent of agency staff employed for more than a year.

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.”

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