Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Honda and WH Smith under attack from union

From the Evening Advertiser June 4th 2007

BRITAIN'S biggest union has criticised the treatment of agency workers at Swindon firms. Unite conducted a survey showing how much businesses rely on underpaid temporary staff, who have no job security.

The report showed that two of the town's biggest employers gave temporary workers less pay and time off.

Both Honda and WH Smith came under fire from the newly formed union, made up of Amicus and the Transport And General Workers' Union.

As reported in the Advertiser, Honda announced plans to take on an extra 700 staff in Swindon last September.

But, according to Unite, the firm has now decided that all new recruits must be hired through an agency on a temporary basis to start with.

Permanent staff get £9.62 an hour, but temporary workers are paid less than £8.

Honda's agency staff are also entitled to a third less holiday entitlement. They can take 20 days a year instead of the usual 33 days offered to their colleagues.

Jim D'Avila, the Amicus regional organiser for Swindon, said: "Temporary workers are treated as second class citizens. We are campaigning to ensure agency staff get treated the same as their colleagues.

"Honda advertised that they were taking on workers earning up to £22,000. People will have made applications thinking that £22,000 sounds good, but six months later they only get £14,000."

Mr D'Avila, pictured, said that new staff at Honda had to work as temps for six months first, then they could be put on a probationary contract with Honda for another six months.

"During that whole year they could be let go without any warning at all," he said.

"What this does is make the staff turnover higher, which is not necessarily the best thing for Honda."

Honda spokeswoman Julie Cameron said: "Car manufacturing is extremely competitive and, in order to manage the flexibility required in the sales fluctuations, we choose to recruit our production associates on a temporary to permanent' basis.

"As with all new starters holidays and benefits are accrued related to service. This process has proved extremely successful."

Unite said temps at WH Smith were paid £5.90 an hour, £2 an hour less than permanent workers.

Agency staff get paid the same rates for working overtime, while their permanent colleagues could be paid time and a half or double-time for extra hours.

WH Smith spokeswoman Sarah Heath said the union had got its numbers wrong.

"The figures quoted are not correct," she said. "We do pay the same rates of overtime to temporary staff.

"Temporary staff are also paid a variety of different rates from £5.90 up to over the figure for permanent staff, depending on their skill and the shifts they work."

But WH Smith could not confirm the number of temporary workers currently employed at the Greenbridge stationery firm, or how many were on the higher level of pay.


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