Saturday, 20 September 2014

‘Right to collective action extends to the unemployed who are forced to do unpaid work’

Unemployed people who are required to work without a receiving wages still have fundamental labour rights like anyone else, including to the right to take collective action. This was confirmed by Amsterdam alderman Arjan Vliegenthart in response to a question from council member Maureen van der Pligt.

The question was prompted by reports about intimidation of participants in a work programme who wanted to join a protest against unpaid work.

The organisation Doorbraak argues:

In principle, the right to collective action includes the right to strike. However, until now, welfare recipients have been punished with benefit cuts or ending their benefit when they refuse to perform forced labour. Of course, such a punishment is at odds with the right to strike. Historically, strikes have always been one of the most powerful forms of action of the labour movement. People who perform forced labour could use the same form of action to support their demands.

Incidentally, the Amsterdam government has announced it will end the requirement for the unemployed to work below the minimum wage.

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