Thursday, 18 April 2013

Somewhat surprised, academic finds that unions stand up for ‘outsiders’

After joint actions by permanent workers and Polish agency workers, Dutch supermarkets have agreed to improve the position of temp workers. Workers at nursing homes are fighting for more stable jobs. The FNV has launched a campaign against precarious work in all sectors. These are examples of the ‘decent work’ agenda adopted by an increasing number of unions on the eve of the creation of the renewed FNV.

The recent national agreement between unions, employers and the government also contains measures to improve employment protection. At the much-praised new political scientists’ blog Stuk Rood Vlees, this caused some surprise. Academic Gijs Schumacher refers to research that would show that ‘in negotiations on labour market reforms, unions across Europe choose to defend the interests of so-called insiders at the expense of the interests of outsiders […] However, the current agreement seems to serve the interests of outsiders more than those of insiders’. Schumacher considers this a change of strategy on the part of the Dutch unions. Incidentally, he interprets this not so much as a choice unions make out of conviction; he suggests unions may hope to gain institutional power or new members.

One thing is certain: the focus on decent work doesn’t come out of the blue. For example, FNV Bondgenoten made decent work a priority of its bargaining policy five years ago. Since, an increasing number of collective agreements contain measures to reduce precarious work. Besides solidarity, this is motivated by the realisation that eventually, all workers will face pressure if employers increase their use of low-paid flex workers.

See also Strikes and the interests of temp workers

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