Blair backs recruitment merger

The £16bn recruitment industry aims to raise standards by merging two professional bodies.

The £16bn recruitment industry aims to raise standards by merging two professional bodies.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation was born last week from the merger of the Federation of Employment and Recruitment Services, representing 5,500 of the UK's estimated 12,000 job agencies, and the Institute of Employment Consultants, which has 7,500 members.

The launch won messages of support from a number of influential people, including prime minister Tony Blair and the leaders of the two main opposition parties. Speaking at the launch event trade and industry minister Alan Johnson said, "We want partnership, not regulation, for a positive future for an industry which is vital to employment."

Recruitment and Employment Confederation chief executive Tim Nicholson, formerly a director of the Securities Institute, said the confederation would "look to aggressively uphold professional standards".

IT accounts for almost a third of the recruitment industry's £16bn turnover. The new body has a computing division, with 150 of the estimated 750 IT recruitment firms as members. The division has its own code of practice.

The IT recruitment field has been muddied in recent months by the formation of the Association of Technology Staffing Companies.

Although both bodies say they are not in competition, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, representing the wider industry, sees itself as the industry's main voice in Parliament. However, the association has also been lobbying over the IR35 proposals to change the way contract staff are employed.

The association's annual subscriptions of up to £5,000 are 10 times those of the confederation, and chief executive Ann Swain says this reflects the fact that the association tends to be a forum for senior directors.

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