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European sectoral social partners for temporary agency work issue joint recommendations to handle COVID-19 crisis

WEC-Europe and UNI-Europa, the European social partners for the temporary agency work industry, adopted joint recommendations demonstrating their commitment to protect workers, safeguard work and prepare for an inclusive economic and social recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Published on 29th April 2020

Responding to the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the temporary agency work sector, WEC-Europe and Uni-Europa release joint recommendations to both mitigate the immediate impact of the crisis and prepare for the recovery of the labour market and the economy.

“With these joint recommendations, the sectoral social partners of the temporary agency work industry demonstrate a dual commitment,” says Bettina Schaller, President of the World Employment Confederation-Europe. “They illustrate how the sector and policymakers can work together to protect the workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, while at the same time showcasing how the temporary agency work sector can contribute to the economic recovery based on its role in providing labour market access and transitions and in improving the skills and employability of workers.”

A constructive sectoral social dialogue plays an important role in ensuring the contribution of temporary work agencies to keeping the labour market fluid and functioning. Since 2001, the World Employment Confederation-Europe and UNI Europa have been engaged in EU Sectoral Social Dialogue, representing temporary work agencies and agency workers respectively. Every two years, both organisations agree on a work programme focusing on different aspects related to regulation of temporary agency work, EU employment policies, capacity building and joint research.

The COVID-19 joint recommendations first address actions to be taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. A call is made to temporary work agencies and user undertakings to ensure adequate health and safety protection equipment and training tailored to COVID-19 specificities. Temporary work agencies should commit to strengthen reallocation of workers from sectors in decline to sectors in urgent need of workers such as healthcare, logistics, education, agriculture & food production and supply.

The recommendations also target national policy makers whose role should be to ensure that temporary agency workers are guaranteed access to universal healthcare, maintain their income and have a minimum right to social protection.

Looking at the economic recovery, WEC-Europe and UNI-Europa encourage sectoral social dialogue initiatives at the national level to discuss the development of new ways of working, learning and social protection. “Social innovation”, a key concept promoted by WEC-Europe, can indeed be an important driver for the economic recovery and the return to inclusive growth. Since 2019, the World Employment Confederation-Europe and UNI-Europa have been engaged in a joint project on social innovation gathering practices developed in the area of access to training, working conditions and social protection. This project will also be essential in providing guidance for the economic and social recovery after the pandemic.

The temporary agency work sector will build on its expertise in health and safety to create a safe and quick pathway back to work for workers. As the joint recommendations underline, the sector can also rely on the solutions already put in place by sectoral social partners at national level for skilling and re-skilling in order to ensure that temporary agency workers have access to training/retraining.

Last call from the European sectoral social partners for temporary agency work is for policy makers to ensure that the sector has access to support programmes and to strengthen the cooperation between public and private employment services. The social partners also remind that reforms to ensure effective access to skilling and social protection across diverse forms of work must be accelerated.

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