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12 June 2008

Dont take us back to the 1970s, FSB warns

Reference number: PR 2008 32

FSB News Release




Issue date:  Friday June 6 2008
Don’t take us back to the 1970s, FSB warns

The government has been urged by the UK Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) not to take the British labour market back to the 1970s by signing up to damaging employment legislation at the EU Employment ministers meeting in Luxembourg this Monday.
The Council of Ministers is set to reach agreement on the Agency Workers Directive and the Working Time Directive.  The UK is expected to gain EU approval of the ‘back-room’ deal reached on Agency Workers between representatives of the TUC and CBI in May.
To mark both the 1970s-esque ‘back-room deal’ between the TUC and CBI, and the return to 1970s Union-led employment legislation, the FSB has today dispatched a ‘care’ parcel of spam sandwiches, warm ale and Brut aftershave to Luxembourg, to fortify British Ministers and officials if the negotiations continue through the night.   
The Federation of Small Businesses conducted a snap poll of its members which showed that, of those businesses that rely on agency workers, over 96% would be less likely to employ them after the government’s deal goes through, and of all employers who have at some point employed agency workers, 98% would be less likely to recruit them in the future. 
FSB National Chairman, John Wright, said:
“As UK ministers travel to Luxembourg, they must decide whether they want to defend the flexible labour market that has contributed to economic growth over the past two decades, or take us back to when Britain was perceived as the sick man of Europe.
“This deal smacks of the 1970s when major decisions were made behind closed doors and Trade Unions dictated employment policy to the government. We cannot take Britain back to those bad old days. 
“On one hand, the government argues it wants to help small businesses, whilst on the other it introduces legislation that will seriously harm their growth.
“The government must not attempt to fool other European leaders into thinking this deal has business support in the UK. As far as Britain’s small and medium sized businesses are concerned, this agreement is not in our name.”

Notes to editors:

1.   The covering letter sent with the package to the Secretary of State reads:
“Dear Secretary of State,
In honour of Britain’s return to the worst of 1970s corporatism, rigid employment markets and Trade Union dominance, please accept this care package of warm ale and corned beef sandwiches to sustain you through the long night ahead.”
2.   The FSB conducted an online poll of a wide range of sectors that might be affected by the agency workers deal, between 30th May and 6th June. Of 885 responses, 51% said they had employed temporary workers in the past. Of these, 98.5% were less likely to recruit after the deal is passed. 6.2% of respondents said they relied on temporary workers and of these, 96.4% said they were less likely to recruit following the deal.
3.   At the end of May 2008, the government reached a ‘back-room’ deal with representatives of big business and the trade unions, which agreed to grant agency workers equal pay and conditions as their full-time counterparts after just twelve weeks of employment. The European Commission''s initial proposal suggested a six-week ‘grace period’, while the UK, Germany, Denmark and Ireland called for 12 months or more.  However, faced with mounting opposition both at home and abroad, the British government has acquiesced on Agency Workers.
4.   The FSB is Britain''s biggest business organisation with over 213,000 members.  It exists to protect and promote the interests of the self-employed, and all those who run their own business. More information is available at
Stephen Alambritis: 020 7592 8112 / 07788 422155
Simon Briault: 020 7592 8128 / 07917 628998
For regional FSB contacts please go to