1. Combating casualisation of labour and erosion of workers' rights
As Western economies continue to struggle, public spending cuts take hold and unemployment rises, protection of workers’ rights is being squeezed in many countries. In some industry sectors, such as manufacturing, high commodity prices, means the ‘race to the bottom’ for sourcing labour is gathering pace...
With rising unemployment and a growing trend for low-paid labour to migrate from the formal to the informal sector, from permanent to temporary contracts, casualisation of work presents a very real concern for worker protection.
Workers in the informal sector cannot join trade unions; they do not enjoy the rights to and benefits of freedom of association, collective bargaining or worker representation. They do not have statutory employment benefits. Very often, they have no contracts. This is increasingly true for agricultural workers, those in the hospitality sector, home-workers in the apparel sector, for example.
While business has a responsibility to respect the rights of its workers, governments also have a duty to protect their citizens, and ensure social protection within a legal framework of proper enforcement of labour regulation. The Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority, a very effective regulation and enforcement mechanism in the UK overseeing the recruitment and employment of vulnerable workers in industries such as agriculture and food-processing, is at risk of being axed due to government cuts, leaving unscrupulous labour brokers and employers poorly regulated and vulnerable workers more open to exploitation.
The ITUC is one voice of many voicing growing concern about ‘the erosion of the protection granted to atypical workers, such as temporary, part-time, contract or fixed term workers, in many countries.’
A significant area of focus for application of the UN Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework in 2012 and beyond should be protection of workers’ rights in both the formal and informal sector as the pressure on prices drives labour costs down in many countries around the world, and public spending cuts continue to weaken labour regulation, enforcement and social protection.