Conversion of Precarious Work into Work with Rights

dscf0049On the 22-23 November 2011 MUBE  attended an International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference, organized by their International Training Centre  in conjunction with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the EC/DG Employment, Social Affairs and Integration, on the ‘Conversion of Precarious Work into Work with Rights’ which was held in Budapest, Hungary. This was the final conference of 3 previous seminars which dealt with the different aspects of precarious work. Precarious work, in its wide sense, is defined as covering all types of employment relationships which are atypical in the sense that they differ from the open-ended, full-time employment contract, in particular part-time contracts, fixed-term contracts, zero hour contracts and temporary agency work.  Undeclared work in the meaning of paid, lawful activities that are not declared to the public authorities is also to be considered as a type of precarious work. Those among the self-employed who are in fact bogus self-employed or are economically dependent workers in spite of their being formally self-employed are covered as well. In short the main characteristics are fewer rights and less protection than their permanently employed counterparts.

Precarious work often leads to insecure, uncertain and unpredictable working conditions. Definite Term contracts, forced Part Time and Agency Services most often than not preclude the worker from exercising his right to plan his future and raise a family. Low wages, Health and Safety compromises, and the lack of/fewer social services benefits also weigh heavily. Youths and women are generally the most exploited.

The problem of precarious work exists in all countries without distinction, some more than others. Eurostat / Labour Force Survey statistics indicate that Part-Timers as a percentage of total employment in Malta accounted for some 12% against the 18% EU27 average. Temporary employment stood at 6% against the EU27 average of 14% whilst Own Account Labour stood at 9% compared to the EU27 average of 10%. Although these figures, prima-facie, indicate that the situation in Malta is less serious than in other EU countries, more recent figures, for example show rhat Part-Time work  increased by a further 10% in the first 6 months of 2011. Also between 2008 and 2009 Part-Time jobs increased 4 fold when compared to Full-Time jobs. This all indicates that the rate of increase in precarious work has been growing at a fast rate since the financial crises in 2008.

In Malta precarious work can be found in both the Private Sector and, very unfortunately, also in the Public Sector. Definite Term Contracts, Part-Time work and employees who are forced to register as Self Employed contracts are clearly on the increase.

Combating precarious work, whether in Malta or elsewhere, requires a comprehensive policy response that includes (1) economic, fiscal and social policies geared towards full employment and income equality, (2) a regulatory framework to reduce and ultimately eradicate precarious work and (3) greater efforts to empower workers by promoting for example, the extension of collective bargaining freely and without fear.


Felix Galea is a member of the HSBC Group Committee and a MUBE Council Member.

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