By Staff Reporter
Labour rights protections are being undermined worldwide as workers are seeing permanent, regular jobs being replaced by contract labour and temporary unstable work, the International Labour Rights Forum has observed.
According to a statement posted on the Forum’s website, with just days to go before the annual International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, this emerging global trend was described as temporary work.
“This phenomenon has become known as ‘precarious work’ by the international labour community. It’s easiest to describe as temporary workers. Jobs in all sectors are being outsourced or subcontracted from employment agencies and short-term contracts have become more common,” the ILRF stated. “Many jobs have become temporary and workers have been wrongly classified as independent contractors. These workers are subject to unstable employment, lower wages and more dangerous working conditions. They rarely receive social benefits and are often denied the right to join a union. Even when they have the right to unionise, workers are scared to organise if they know they are easily replaceable.”
The ILRF further stated that the use of contract labour and ‘precarious work’ was part of a global business strategy to undermine decent work and cut labour costs through labour market ‘flexibilisation’ or casualisation.
“To understand what is at the core of this employer strategy, it is important to understand that the entire framework of labour law, including international labour law, is based on the permanent employer/employee relationship,” the statement read in part. “’Precarious work’ is not a mere short-term tactic to reduce costs or to defeat a union organising drive, but a long-term strategy for shedding all obligations to workers and eliminating all employee rights based on the existence of an employment relationship,”
The Forum noted that from a historical perspective, employers discovered over time that slave labour was not economically efficient and that legally ‘free’ workers could be contracted without the cost of providing them housing and food.
“Workers struck back by organising unions and winning the right to bargain collectively as employees. Now employers are trying to turn the clock back by ridding themselves of permanent employees as such,” read the statement. “Many employers have created a world of work where there is no longer a need to bust unions or use violence against union leaders when they can just take away the potential members.”