Is there a right side of the Track?

If you want to see a good example of controversy in action, look no further than the government’s decision to legally allow temporary agency workers to replace striking rail employees. Are you for or against or rather more apathetic? Well, the truth is it probably depends on who you are and what you do. Problem is, we’re all different, doing different things, so where to find the common ground…

Not-so-great expectations

If you take chapter and verse from both sides, for and against, this is a story not heading toward a happy ending. Heated, angry debate, while understandable, is unlikely to calm down any time soon, unless an intelligent solution-focused approach leads the way. Easy to say. Not so easy to do. In the meantime, let’s unpick some of the hot issues.

A battle of wills

The government has spoken, and voted, and the unions dig in.

The views for – supporters say the legislation was outdated and the repeal of the old restrictions will minimise strike disruption, allow crucial public services to continue uninterrupted, and let people get on with their lives.

The views against – critics say there is a risk not only to safety but also workers’ rights more fundamentally. They argue this turnaround could result in lengthened strike action, and question the ease at which skilled roles can simply be ‘filled-in’ temporarily. And then there’s the citing of the recent P&O Ferries debacle, denounced by the government yet morally not unsimilar.

The uncomfortable middle ground

Now perched between a rock and a hard place, recruitment agencies are experiencing it from all sides. The removal of regulation 7 of the 2003 Conduct Regulations, enables Rail employers to hire agency staff during strike action.  Regulations are one of the key pieces of legislation governing the recruitment industry in the UK, ensuring work seekers and clients are treated fairly by recruitment agencies. And that, of course, is what we strive to do everyday.

The change in law is one thing, making it workable on the ground could be a whole other ball game. Even on a basic level, it needs available staff in the right number with the right skills and qualifications to step in. And, crucially, they also need to be willing to cross picket lines – potentially not a very attractive prospect – and if they manage to do that, there’s no guarantee that they’ll possess the full skills to execute the job.

As recruitment agencies, we want to keep serving our clients – both employers and candidates – with the highest quality, well-matched appointments that bring the most benefit and advantage to both parties. And that requires a healthy job market in all sectors.

Let’s hope that the mind-set and intention of striking a fair deal predominates in the journey ahead.