Yes, We Can Do Something About Insecure Work

A recent New York Times editorial claimed it is simply impossible for “good jobs” to equate to a “good life” for Americans. So a logical conclusion can be drawn, that “bad jobs” (or non-secure work) could ever equate to a “good life”.

Politicians routinely promise that, if elected, they will create more “good jobs,” which are understood to be jobs with solid wages, regular ours and, perhaps, generous employer-provided benefits. During this year’s Presidential Campaign, Hillary Clinton promised “the biggest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II” by a means of a misture of tough trade negotiations, investment in domestic manufacturing, infrastructure investment, research and development, regulatory relief for small business and a tax credit to subside apprenticeships. President-elect Trump proposed to protect American workers from competition with illegal immigrants, the offshoring of jobs by United States-based corporations and harmful practices by trading partners like China.

american-dream

But far from the campaign stops and Capitol Hill, Americans are asking; shouldn’t we all be able to enjoy “good lives,” even if we have “bad jobs,” or those defined as insecure work… one’s with low wages, irregular hours and poor or no employer-provided benefits?

Well, according to an important new study from the International Labor Organization, which highlights smart policies that have been used to improve insecure work.

DOWNLOAD: International Labor Organization Study on Non-Secure Work

The comprehensive study by the ILO documents the rise of “insecure” or “non-standard” forms of work – temporary work, seasonal work, casual or intermittent work, daily work, involuntary part-time work, on-call work, temp agency work, subcontracted work, and employment misclassified as independent contracting—around the world in recent decades.

For most working people, these “non-standard” working arrangements have meant greater economic insecurity, including lower earnings, greater likelihood of unemployment, limited control over work hours, less predictable schedules, lower likelihood of union representation, greater occupational safety and health risk, and reduced access to on-the-job training and unemployment and retirement benefits.

The ILO study identifies policy choices that have made “non-standard” work less insecure, including the following:

  • Ensuring equal treatment for part-time workers with regard to wages, working conditions, freedom of association, safety and health, paid annual leave, paid holidays, maternity leave, pension benefits, protections against discrimination, and termination of employment;
  • Ensuring equal treatment for temp agency workers with regard to wages, working conditions and freedom of association, and protecting agency workers against discrimination;
  • Preventing abuse by setting limits on the use of temp agency work, casual work, on-call work or labor subcontracting, in certain circumstances;
  • Assigning joint liability for labor and employment obligations to lead firms in subcontracting networks and user firms in multiple-party arrangements;
  • Establishing minimum guaranteed hours for part-time, on-call and casual workers, and limiting the variability of working schedules;
  • Cracking down on misclassification of employees as independent contractors by, for example, establishing a presumption of an employment relationship or legally defining contracts for certain kinds of services as employment contracts;
  • Using collective bargaining to regulate insecure work by, for example, turning contract work into regular jobs; ensuring equal treatment of temporary, temp agency, casual and part-time workers; guaranteeing minimum hours; and negotiating worker-friendly schedules;
  • Ensuring that all “non-standard” workers can organize and be represented effectively in collective bargaining;
  • Broadening the scope of collective bargaining to all workers in a sector or occupational category;
  • Strengthening remedies against anti-union discrimination, especially discrimination against temporary and on-call workers;
  • Forming alliances between unions and other organizations, such as day labor worker centers, to address issues of concern to insecure workers;
  • Promoting fiscal and monetary policies that lead to full employment;
  • Making social protection programs more inclusive by lowering thresholds for hours, earnings, duration of employment and minimum contributions

Insecure work is not inevitable. Nor is the impossibility of a “good life”. Non-standard employment, including temporary work, part-time work, temporary agency work and other multi-party employment arrangements, disguised employment relationships and dependent self-employment, has become a contemporary feature of labor markets the world over. What is key is that the policies and regulations in place protecting non-standard workers detailed in the International Labor Organization study be an ongoing effort practiced consistently.

As Union Members you know… the “good life” does not have to be impossible.

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