A dispute between the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Britain’s trade union, Unite, has highlighted the upsurge in contractor payroll in the UK. Whilst RBS has cut large numbers of permanent staff, an email leak over the bank holiday has revealed that around 3,000 freelancers are currently being used by the bank. However, Unite slammed the news, arguing that contractors should not be used in replacement of permanent members of staff.

The argument stems from a leaked email from Hays, the recruitment agency, reminding contractors to submit timesheets before the weekend of the latest bank holiday. Criticising the move to increase contractor payroll instead of having permanent employees, Unite’s national officer, David Fleming, said “It is wholly inappropriate that RBS, backed by taxpayers, appears to be throwing money at thousands of contractors.”

Freelancers association PGC however hit back at the criticism of RBS, expressing that it was a ‘knee jerk’ reaction. The Deputy Chairman of the group, James Collings, explained “RBS, in common with many organisations throughout the UK, see the merit in using a skilled and flexible freelance work force when and where there is a demand for their talent and paying these businesses a market rate.” He added that, with one in 20 now working as a freelancer, the contractors’ community was on the rise and had every right to be employed by corporate companies such as RBS. Whilst Mr Collings expressed concern at the leaked Hays data, he made it clear that contracting in the UK is becoming more prevalent than ever.

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