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GMB - Agencies "cheat workers on pay"

Agencies 'cheat workers on pay'

Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable, the TUC says pay for many workers in the UK is dropping below the minimum wage because some employment agencies are illegally deducting money, unions have claimed. A report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the growing trend particularly affected migrant workers.

A number of agencies charged workers inflated meal, transport, accommodation and clothing costs, it said.

The TUC said many stayed silent because they were unaware of minimum wage law or were scared of losing their jobs.

The report, Below the minimum: agency workers and the minimum wage, found the practice has seen many fail to take home the £4.85 per hour minimum set by legislation.

Agency workers deserve a better deal than many of them are getting at the moment

Brendan Barber, TUC

"Dodgy" agencies were routinely taking money for cashing pay cheques, transport, and providing clothing and safety equipment.

Regulations introduced in 2003 were designed to protect people from exploitation by unscrupulous employment agencies, but TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said they were not working.

"Agency workers deserve a better deal than many of them are getting at the moment," he said.

The TUC - representing 67 British trades unions - is urging the government to lend its full support to a European directive being debated next week to strengthen the rights of and improve conditions for vulnerable workers.

The union organisation would also like to see more money being put into carrying out inspections to tackle rogue agencies.

Under the law, agencies can make limited deductions for accommodation which, when added to usual reductions like National Insurance and tax, can take a worker's wage below the minimum without breaching legislation.

In all other cases employers must ensure money deducted does not take pay below the minimum wage.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation said introducing more red tape would "penalise and restrict British business".

Instead it called for more effective implementation of existing minimum wage law.

"We do not condone exploitation of any kind," said confederation deputy chief executive Marcia Roberts.

"Many of the deductions identified by the [TUC] report are actually legal, the source of the confusion lies in a lack of transparency.

"The real issue here is not one of greater regulation but greater enforcement."

Members of the confederation sign up to an agreed code of conduct and workers were encouraged to inform the REC about any members who were acting illegally or unethically, she said.

Complaints involving non-REC members are forwarded to the DTI's inspectorate.

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