AGENCY workers at a distribution depot near Swindon could soon become permanent employees.

OverMore than 400 workers at the DHL depot near Swindon, which operates as part of Marks and Spencer’s distribution chain, are on the books of the employment agency 24.7 Recruitment.

They are then formally employed through another company, called Tempay Ltd, and are paid the minimum wage at around £6.50 an hour.

However, Another 300 permanent workers doing the same job who are represented by the site’s recognised union, Unite, are employed directly by transport firm Wincanton at a rate of £8.50 per hour – £2 an hour more.

While the practice is legal under Section 10 of the Agency Workers Regulations – otherwise known as the Swedish derogation – the GMB union and temporary workers have been calling for the process to be changed.

And Last week(Mar23), DHL announced that they would give 150 agency workers permanent contracts with the company, offering more security and a fairer pay packet to employees.

In a joint statement from DHL and Unite, a spokesman said: “As part of the on-going labour strategy review process by DHL Supply Chain for the M&S Swindon site, a decision has been taken to recruit 150 full time permanent colleagues.

“This review has been carried out in partnership with the full support of Unite the Union, as the recognised union on site, who have been instrumental in supporting DHL in the process.

“The recruitment will be drawn from a closed pool of existing agency colleagues on site.

“Both Unite and DHL agree that the recruitment of the new colleagues will be a huge positive for the Swindon site and the customer.

“This further cements the relationship and common goal of Unite and DHL, in securing permanent employment at the Swindon site.”

John Fernandes, GMB Union member and a loader at the distribution centre, said he was pleased with the result but was still waiting to hear about the finer points of the new arrangements.

He said: “I think it is a positive result and I guess I am happy to hear about it, but we are now just waiting to find out about how it will work and how it will affect us.

“We put a list of questions to our employers to this effect on Friday and we’re still waiting to hear back.

“Generally though, I think it is good news.”

The announcement has also been welcomed by GMB, who have represented the agency workers during the dispute, welcomed the announcement and say it is the first time that a union has achieved recognition for a body of agency workers.

Carole Vallelley, GMB regional organising officer for Tempay, said: “I have to say that generally we really welcome the fact that so many of our members will get the opportunity to have a full time secure contract rather than the temporary contracts they have had up until now."

“It has taken a while but hopefully this is just the start of a long process and is the first step to getting fair wages for all the workers.”

Chris Watts, president of the Wiltshire and Swindon branch of the GMB, said: “The GMB is the first to achieve recognition for a body of agency workers in the whole of Europe.

“The whole purpose was to expose a loophole in the law which we have gone some way to do, so it’s a very positive result.”

Earlier this year, the GMB went as far as to taketook the row to the EU Commission, urging a change to the law which allowed for wage discrepanciesthe to change the law which made the wage discrepancy for workers doing the same job possible.

At the time Chris said: “Our delegation to Brussels was extremely successful. We met with senior EU Commission officials for Employment, Social Legislation and Social Dialogue leading on Agency worker legislation.

“It was interesting to note that only five member nations have allowed Swedish Derogation of agency contracts in their country (UK, Ireland, Sweden, Hungary and Malta).

“We were able to explain to the EU Commission officials and MEPs that the Swedish Derogation loophole was being inappropriately applied wholesale to hundreds of agency workers in Swindon.

“This legal trickery is solely for the purpose of working against the principles and spirit of the Agency Workers Directive to promote equality, security, social mobility and economic stability.”