Temps miss out as Hutton says no to EU

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EU plans to give temporary workers rights similar to their permanent counterparts were left suspended in limbo last night as European ministers failed to reach any agreement at a summit in Brussels yesterday.

A deal on the employment rights was scuppered by the UK government after business minister John Hutton made it clear he was not prepared to accept the proposed directive in its current form. A spokesman for Mr Hutton said he believed the measures would inhibit the country's flexible labour market.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said that he was very disappointed. "What is most depressing today is to listen to ministers endorse the business argument that the UK economy can only succeed by having fewer rights for its employees that its competitors," he said. "This is a sad view of the capabilities of UK companies and their managers," he added.

The directive, which was proposed five years ago, aims to give temporary workers the right to equal treatment with a comparable permanent employee on issues such as pay, working time and holidays, and protection against discrimination.

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, the trade body which represents the recruitment industry, 1.3 million people are placed into temporary work across the UK every week. The REC said the proposals would add bureaucracy and risk to this flexible resource, potentially limiting job creation across the country.

However, the Confederation of British Industry, the leading business association, welcomed yesterday's result. Deputy director-general John Cridland commended the Government for resisting Brussels, saying the planned legislation would have threatened local jobs. "The Government deserves congratulations on ensuring this directive was not passed," he said, "A quarter of a million UK jobs would have been in jeopardy if it had been bullied through in Brussels."