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New Publication: Trade Unions Protecting Self-employed Workers

For the past two years, FIA has been actively involved in the ETUC project “New Trade Union Strategies for New Forms of Work”, where we sit on the steering group as part of the European Arts and Entertainment Alliance (EAEA, which is composed of FIA, FIM and UNI MEI and is a European Trade Union Federation, affiliated to the ETUC). The project has given rise to a series of valuable thematic seminars and has been the occasion to commission some targeted research on the specific situation of self-employed workers and other workers that fall into the grey zone of atypical work.

This first publication arising from the project was drawn up by Lionel Fulton, of the Labour Research Department, on the basis of a broad European survey. It is a detailed mapping of the situation of self-employed workers across the EU and candidate countries. It shows, among other things, that self-employed workers:

  • are not allowed by law to join trade unions in some European countries,
  • cannot negotiate standard rates and working conditions through collective bargaining in many EU member states – supposedly due to due EU competition law,
  • do not have access to social protection benefits such as sick leave, unemployment pay, parental leave and pension.

Where collective bargaining is allowed for self-employed workers it is usually for journalists, performers and workers in culture and entertainment, a sector that features broadly in the report. The report also includes a range of interesting examples and ground-breaking approaches from national unions.  It is clear that the ETUC wishes to draw on this report and its findings to be a strong voice for self-employed workers and to advocate for their rights. This was reflected in the accompanying statement from Thiébaut Weber, ETUC Confederal Secretary:

“Trade unions are fighting for the self-employed as well as for employees. Unions have opened their doors to the self-employed where it is allowed, have tried to engage in collective bargaining with reluctant employers and offered the self-employed services such as guidance on fees, legal advice and training. But there also needs to be a change in the law in a number of countries including clarification of EU competition law which is being abused to stop self-employed workers from having better pay and working conditions.

“We call the European institutions to remove all the barriers to collective bargaining and to establish rules providing a common legal framework for all workers across Europe. It is also up to national governments to combat bogus self-employment and to ensure access to social protection”.

The report is now freely available to download in both French and English here under.

ETUC- Report on self employment-EN

ETUC- Report on self employment-FR