A law change allowing businesses to draft in skilled agency workers to fill vital staffing gaps caused by strikers is unlikely to affect the security industry, a key sector figure claimed today.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy announced legislation amid concerns of industrial action across the UK.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said in light of the threat of “militants” threatening to disrupt crucial public services, the Government has repealed trade union laws resytricting employment businesses from providing temporary agency workers to fill vacant positions caused by striking staffers.
But security expert Philip Ingram MBE said: “I haven’t heard that there are any worries in the industry about industrial action, so this legislation is unlikely to affect it.”
Ingram said that agency workers would have to have Security Industry Authority accreditation to work.
Many large companies, he said, use major staff-providing agencies for workers, in any case.
The Government said that from today, businesses most affected by industrial action will be able to call upon skilled, temporary staff at short notice to plug essential positions to carry on normal business.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “In light of militant trade union action threatening to bring vital public services to a standstill, we have moved at speed to repeal these burdensome,1970s – style restrictions.
“From today, businesses exposed to disruption caused by strike action will be able to tap into skilled, temporary workers to provide the services that allow honest, hardworking people to get on with their lives. That’s good news for our society and for our economy.”
While the law change will provide greater flexibility to businesses, companies will still be required to abide by broader health and safety rules that keep employees and the public safe.
In addition, it will be the responsibility of individual businesses to hire temporary workers with the correct and suitable skillset and/or qualifications to meet the obligations of the role.
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Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps said: “While next week’s rail strikes will come too soon to benefit from this legislation, it’s an important milestone reflecting the government’s determination to minimise the power of union bosses.
“For too long unions have been able to hold the country to ransom with the threat of industrial action but this vital reform means any future strikes will cause less disruption and allow hardworking people to continue with their day to day lives.”
The government has also changed the law today to raise the maximum damages that courts can award against a union, when strike action has been found by the court to be unlawful. For the biggest unions, the maximum award will rise from £250,000 to £1 million.
The changes contained in the new legislation will apply across England, Scotland and Wales.
The security industry, in common with many other sectors, is suffering problems with recruitment and retention.
A spokesman for the British Security Industry Association told SJUK: “Following consultation with our members, we anticipate that the industry must recruit, train and license more than 62,000 new security officers over the next 12 months to keep up with the growing demand for their services.
“We need to boost the size of SIA licensed security officer population to more than 400,000 over the next 12 months, an increase of 12 percent, to meet the growing demand.
“Overall, there is a potential risk of losing almost 20,000 officers from the Security Officer Services workforce through factors including retirement and displacement following Brexit and COVID-19.”
Earlier this year, P&O Ferries caused outrage by sacking its entire onboard workforce and replaced it with foreign agency staff at a fraction of the cost.