Agency workers in Corby are being exploited, have no job security and are poorly paid, it has been claimed.
Next month a summit involving local businesses, councillors, the media, voluntary organisations, trade unions and residents, is being held to tackle the issues.
On Monday a delegation from the town met minister for employment relations Jo Swinson to discuss employment agencies in Corby, which has 43 compared with 20 in Northampton, a town three times its size.
Corby MP Andy Sawford, council leader Tom Beattie, experts from the Citizens Advice Bureau and officials from the trade union Unite attended the meeting on Monday at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.
Delegates told the Government that employment agencies in Corby were having a damaging effect on the local labour market and raised concerns that workers are vulnerable to exploitation, with many having no job security, low pay and poor rights.
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Mr Sawford said: “Employment agencies are a huge problem in Corby. There is a spectrum, from the more reputable agencies to those who exploit local workers.
“I am concerned that the current legal protections are too limited and it is very disappointing to hear from the Government that they plan to weaken them. For example, the minister confirmed that the future of the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate is now in doubt.”
Issues highlighted by the delegation included confusing rules and regulations and loopholes which enable agencies and some employers to exploit workers and avoid treating them equally in terms of pay and conditions. Low wages paid by agencies, some of which keep part of the pay people earn, and short-term and unstable employment were discussed.
Specific problems in the construction, food processing and distribution sectors, a particular issue in Corby, were also raised.
Mr Sawford and Cllr Beattie pressed the Government to strengthen protections for agency workers but the Government is considering deregulating agencies.
Cllr Beattie said: “Reputable employment agencies play an important role in the labour market and should have nothing to fear from strengthened regulations.
“However, the sheer proliferation of them in a town the size of Corby should give cause for concern.”
Joel Lawson, director with Brooks and Co at Corby Enterprise Centre, set the recruitment agency up last September and supplies workers to the industrial sector.
He said: “Our aim is always to find people full-time employment but job security is a problem for many workers. In my opinion this is the fault of the clients – companies who recruit temporary workers, mostly between the ages of 17 and 21, and get rid of them after three months.
“Employment agencies are being targeted and given a bad name but they are not to blame. The margins are really small for companies like ours which run properly. There are agencies who get round loopholes. It’s definately something that need to be looked at.”
Mr Sawford and Cllr Beattie are convening the Corby Employment Agency Summit on April 5 at the Cube in Corby, from 9.30am to 1pm. Anyone who would like to attend is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org by March 15.