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HVCA launches M&E agency labour initiative

The Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association (HVCA) has formed the Building Services Engineering Employment Agency Alliance (Alliance) with labour agencies.

The Alliance aims to ensure agency workers supplied to the building services sector meet certain standards, which are encapsulated in Key Commitments labour agencies will sign up to. Three firms have so far signed up the Alliance.

The HVCA will administer the scheme, but the Alliance will have a separate identity and will be run by its members. In a bid to ensure that labour agencies meet the required standards of the alliance, the membership will be subject to a third party audit.

Issues covered by the Key Commitments include financial standing, health and safety and overseas workers. Under the scheme workers should also hold relevant certification such as SKILLcard or ECS card.

Peter Rimmer, director of employment affairs at the HVCA, said he believed the standards set in the Key Commitments regarding labour agencies brining in overseas workers and other issues would reassure the industry.

Commitments placed on labour agencies regarding overseas workers include; providing evidence that skills and qualifications are at least at equivalent level to comparable UK workers, objectively verifying workers’ awareness of UK health and safety management culture, and categorising each worker’s command of English.

“The Alliance recognises the increasingly important role employment agencies are playing in the supply chain,” said Mr Rimmer. “This creates a platform to allow dialogue on industry issues and includes agencies that prove, by signing up the Key Commitments, that they are willing to develop the industry.”

Mr Rimmer added that the HVCA had received significant input from the Electrical Contractors Association on the Alliance, and he was hopeful the electrical employer body would join the scheme.

He also envisaged that the Alliance could lobby on relevant legislation such as the EU Temporary (Agency) Workers Directive, if its members decide to do so.

Eugene Semenuik, director of labour agency Oracle Global Resourcing added: “Agency labour has seen by contractors as a necessary evil. We hope the alliance will give us a platform to create better performance and perceptions.”

Unite, the Union expressed concerns that the Alliance would encourage the use of non-direct labour in contradiction of its aims from the national agreement for sector workers, which it negotiated with the HVCA.

Tom Hardacre, national officer, Unite, the Union said: “If this Alliance means employers will be using non-direct labour more often, or continuing to do so, we’re not happy about it. We see it as compromising the National Agreement which talks about direct employment. The promotion of non-direct labour is strongly opposed by our members.”

Read H&V News editor Simon Duddy's blog on the subject here