Published: 22/03/2010

The IUF has made an official submission to the United Nations’ Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie, drawing attention to the many ways in which precarious employment is being systematically used to undermine trade union organization and bargaining power. Professor Ruggie’s mandate, which run s through 2011, includes developing recommendations to strengthen states’ duty to protect all human rights from abuses by transnational corporations and other businesses, and to elaborate a concrete framework setting out corporations’ obligations in the light of international law.

Based on IUF experiences in some of the major TNCs in the IUF sectors, the IUF points out that “Precarious work in all its forms – when it is not being praised, encouraged and promoted for contributing to labour market ‘flexibiilization’ – is usually discussed in relation to declining living standards, discrimination, the feminization or poverty etc.”  However, “There is another central rights dimension, namely the deliberate application of precarious work relationships to restrict workers’ ability to organize at the workplace and challenge poverty, insecurity, unsafe working conditions etc. through trade union organization and collective bargaining.

“By creating an intermediate network of indirect employment relationships, corporations evade employer responsibility for industrial relations and restrict the size of the collective bargaining unit or even completely eliminate the collective bargaining relationship. By generalizing insecurity through the undermining of direct employment, these practices also exercise a chilling effect on the general environment in which workers organize to exercise their collective rights… Without recourse to death squads or anti-union consultancies, unions can be shrunk in size and influence to die a slow death through outsourcing. It is in this context that precarious work emerges as a fundamental human rights issue demanding a strong response rooted in a comprehensive human rights framework”

The submission calls on the Special Representative “to fully integrate the relationship between precarious work and the effective realization of human rights into his investigations and recommendations as a matter of priority.”

The submission is available here in pdf format.