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Global unions warn of dangers in contract, agency work

Four days before the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund officials meet with the Turkish Government, Global Unions met with Turkey’s Minster for Labour, and lent their support to President Abdullah Gül’s veto of a bill giving “Private Labour Offices” broad rights to place temporary workers in enterprises and warned of the dangers that precarious employment poses for society.

Representatives of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine, and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), the International Textile, Garment, and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), and the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) reported to the Labour Minister that contract and agency labour and precarious forms of employment have been exploding around the world, bringing with it two categories of workers: one with good secure jobs and another category of workers faced with short term jobs, low wages, no social protection and a loss of rights.

At a press conference in Istanbul today, Manfred Warda, ICEM General Secretary, said, “Globally, the massive shift away from regular employment into temporary work or jobs through agencies and labour brokers is having a deep impact on all workers, their families, and on society. Erosion of the employee-employer relationship, often the basis of labour law, is leading directly to a growing number of violations of workers’ rights.”

“There is a connection between international ‘policy changes’, those inspired by the international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which have encouraged work flexibility and brought with it a lowering of work conditions at national levels,” added Warda. “Such changes reflect clear employer strategies to weaken collective bargaining through part-time and agency work, and the ICEM will resist this in every way possible.”

Guy Ryder, ITUC General Secretary, reiterated today a message delivered by the global unions to the G-20 Summit last week, stating “The expansion of precarious forms of work and deregulation of the labour market are not the answer to the employment crisis – in fact, the insecurity of working people over recent decades was a significant contributor to the recession. It is no coincidence that precarious work and fragile financial markets have both been developing in recent decades.”

“The way forward must be based on sustainable, not precarious development - a sustainable economy where the financial sector is at the service of the real economy. We need social justice and environmental sustainability to reverse the damage done to our planet in a way that provides good, steady and secure jobs,” added Ryder.

Neil Kearney, ITGLWF General Secreatry said, "Agency hires and temporary contracts destroy job security and undermine all other rights and promote gross exploitation of both the temporary worker and the permanent employee working alongside them.”

“In Turkey, ITGLWF affiliate Teksif is locked in battle with Ederne Giyim where workers employed on an agency type arrangement with inferior wages and conditions are being used to reduce and eventually eliminate a permanent workforce of long standing. Union resistance to the worsening conditions has resulted in mass firings of union members,” Kearney added.

“Elsewhere in Turkey, ITGLWF affiliates are in daily conflict with textile, clothing and leather industry employers using every means, including sub-contracting, undeclared labour and short-term contracts to prevent unionisation and the protection of workers' rights. Government action is urgently needed to restore worker protection against this onslaught," demanded Kearney.

Jyrki Raina, IMF General Secretary, said “Permanent jobs are being eroded by an increasing reliance by employers on labour hire via employment agencies. In some plants we are now finding that more than fifty per cent of the workforce are agency workers.”

“The financial crisis has delivered a further blow to precarious workers. Hundreds of thousands of them have been the first to lose their jobs, because dismissing workers with no rights to severance pay or notice periods is a cheap and easy way for employers to reduce their workforces. The crisis has had significant and far reaching impacts on employment,” he added.

“Here in Turkey, IMF affiliate Birlesik Metal Is has been supporting 350 workers who were dismissed last year by Sinter Metal for exercising their right to join a trade union. The company alleges that the dismissals were a necessary response to the financial crisis, but the evidence shows that this is no more than a weak excuse to dismiss union members and prevent workers from protecting their jobs,” he said.

Over the next week, metal worker unions around the world will be mobilizing against precarious work and will be joining with other national and sector unions around the globe in a World Day for Decent Work on Wednesday 7 October.

The ICEM will focus World Day for Decent Work activities on its Contract and Agency Labour campaign in Thailand and Turkey.

“A sustainable recovery will not be built on precarious and substandard jobs. That’s why around the world today, unions and their members are united in their demand for secure jobs and equal rights for all workers, “ said Jyrki Raina.

The ITUC represents 170 million workers in 157 countries and territories and has 312 national affiliates; the ICEM represents 467 trade unions in 132 countries; and the IMF covers over 200 trade unions in 100 countries.

Notes to editors:
1. More information about the World Day for Decent Work can be found here.

2. More information on the IMF campaign against precarious work can be found here.

3. More information on the ICEM contract and agency labour campaign can be found here.

4. More information on the dispute at Sinter Metal can be found here.

________________________________
For further information, please contact:
Mathieu Debroux, ITUC, +32 2 224 0210
Dick Blin, ICEM, +41 22 304 1842
Neil Kearney, ITGLWF, +32 2 512 2606
Anita Gardner, IMF, +41 22 308 5032

(2 October 2009)

 

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