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Trade union and co-operative innovations for precarious workers

Patrick Conaty, Alex Bird, Cilla Ross, March 2018

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Summary :

With the erosion of the archetype of a five day week, full time for most, agreed hours job goes the loss of a wide range of benefits in favour of precarious work with limited rights and imposed flexibility. Not all self-employment is of this form, but what tends to be characteristic of newer self-employed workers and those on zero hour contracts is low pay, limited legal protection, high insecurity, limited social security access, limited pension entitlement and limited collective representation. Surveys show that casual agency staff and self- employed workers are earning 40% less than an average employee.

Such workers also commonly live in precarious housing with a lack of security of tenure and limited access to personal loans and mortgages. With lack of access to maternity or paternity leave or pay for a growing number of precarious workers, family life and family planning becomes more difficult.

International research by the ILO has shown that partnerships between mutual aid groups, co-operatives and trade unions are proven ways to organise self-employed workers and to secure both rights and access to a wide diversity of needed services.