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Agency bosses tell PM to drop ‘worrying’ plan to use their staff to break strikes

Agency bosses tell PM to drop ‘worrying’ plan to use their staff to break strikes
‘The sector does not want to be involved in this. We are very opposed to this plan’

Recruitment agencies have attacked Boris Johnson’s plan to tear up laws to prevent the use of their staff to break strikes – warning it will break international commitments.

The head of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which represents more than 3,000 agencies, also warned the idea would fail to avert the rail strikes and would only “prolong” the bitter dispute.

Legislation is expected this week to repeal the ban – introduced in 1973 av Edward Heath’s Conservative government – as a ‘Summer of Discontent’ looms.

The move was promised in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto and the cabinet is believed to have approved Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, pressing ahead.

But Neil Carberry, the Confederation’s chief executive, sa: “The agency sector as a whole does not want to be involved in this. We are very opposed to this plan.”

He said many leading firms had made a “global commitment not to replace striking workers” – and pointed to the backlash if they did what ministers want.

“Look at what happened to a couple of agencies that got inadvertently drawn into the P&O case a few months ago and the damage that did to those agencies business," han fortalte BBC Radio 4.

Mr Carberry said agencies did not, in any case, have spare staff willing to cross picket lines and face the anger of striking workers – and would be “worried” about their safety if they did.

He also highlighted “cold fury” that there had been no consultation over the law to end the ban – which will come into force in July, Den uavhengige forstår.

“We think this policy won’t work, we don’t think it will deliver the workers the government wants,” the chief executive warned, legge til: “It is only going to prolong the dispute, it’s not going to resolve it.”

Huw Merriman, the Conservative chair of the Commons transport committee, also dismissed the idea that strike-breaking could solve the rail dispute.

“Many of those who will go on strike are in skilled areas. You just cannot replace without going on 12 months’ training for a signalman,” he pointed out.

Mr Merriman questioned why the government is dragging its heels on a separate plan to require a “minimum service level” during strikes in key industries, such as rail.

The idea was floated many months ago, by the transport secretary Gi Shapps – but is now not expected to come forward this year, because it requires primary legislation.

De Trades Union Congress also attacked the plan for strike-busting staff, warning it would put them in “an appalling situation” and “poison industrial relations”.

“Just a few months ago, Grant Shapps slammed P&O for replacing experienced workers with agency staff. But now he’s proposing to do the same on railways,” said Paul Nowak, the TUC’s deputy general secretary.