AfroFIA - News details

17.01.2019

FIA warmly welcomes the Council of Europe recognition of bargaining rights of self-employed workers

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe issued a decision in December that constitutes an important recognition of the collective labour rights of self-employed persons, clearly recognising that their fundamental right to collective bargaining may not be restricted simply by virtue of their employment status.

This Committee of Ministers decision endorses the ruling issued by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) on a complaint by the Irish Trade Union Confederation (ICTU) supported by the ETUC. FIA members will recall the central role played by Irish Equity in defending the fundamental rights of the self-employed voice-over actors whom they represent. They were instrumental in the submission of the collective complaint that has been upheld, which was one of the many strategic advocacy actions that led to the eventual passage into law of the Competition Amendment Act in Ireland in 2017.

The decision of the ECSR, affirms that article 6§2 of the European Social Charter on the right to collective bargaining applies to self-employed persons like voice over actors, free-lance journalists and session musicians and that restrictions based on competition law or commercial law are not legitimate and/or are not necessary in a democratic society.

This European decision is therefore in line with the Irish Competition Amendment Act which was amended in May 2017 to allow collective bargaining for voice-over actors; session musicians and freelance journalists and potentially other categories of self-employed workers in the future, who are organised within a trade union. The amendment followed the ongoing and concerted efforts of Irish Equity and the Musicians Union of Ireland in SIPTU; the NUJ Ireland; and the ICTU.

The ECSR Decision also follows the case law on ILO Conventions 98, 151 and 154 which extend collective bargaining rights to all employers and workers, including self-employed workers.

Karan O’Louglin of Irish Equity/SIPTU said: "This decision is warmly welcomed not just by Irish Equity but by the Irish Trade Union movement in general, given the changing nature of work and the increasing numbers of people now working as individual self-employed workers, in the arts and on digital platforms." 

"Competition law must be tough with the strong and gentle with the weak” said Thiébaut Weber ETUC Confederal Secretary. “We need rules to stop cartels and anti-trust practices by monopolies, not to prevent self-employed workers from organising themselves to negotiate fair remuneration and working conditions."

"We call the European Commission to take note of this ruling and to give clear guidelines to member states to stop this violation of a fundamental labour right", added Esther Lynch ETUC Confederal Secretary. “We also welcome the ECSR call on EU Member States to take, when agreeing on and implementing EU legislative instruments, full account of the commitments they have taken upon ratifying the European Social Charter.”

FIA will continue to develop its own work and reflections on the labour rights and trade union representation of self-employed, freelance and other atypical workers and strategies for their advancement within the framework of its ongoing project ‘Reaching the Full Potential of Social Dialogue for Atypical Workers'.     

Download Collective Complaint No. 123/2016 ICTU v. Ireland.