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Decent Work in Global Supply Chains

Chapter 4.2 The fragmentation of labour

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Employment fragmentation can make it more difficult or in some cases imposible to have due union representation to part of the workforce or to the full workforce. For example, when national legislation sets a minimum number of direct employees to allow for a union to be created, the decision of a firm to externalize certain services (typical examples are those related to externalization of cleaning services, security, or secretaries) or to buy certain supplies instead of producing them, may reduce the number of direct employees to below the threshold imposed by national law.
It may also be the case that even if a union can and is formalised at the level of the firm, this union cannot represent third party workers (such as those hired through temporary agencies, those that work for service providers and consultants carrying out their jobs within the premises of the firm...). Not only are third party workers not protected by the union, but also the bargaining power of the union may be negatively compromised.
Another case, is when there is a delocalization to third countries. If employees are hired under local laws, it is probable that union representation may differ from employees in headquarters. Depending on the location of the headquarters and the local offices, labour rights may be lower or higher. For example, employees of an USA corporation in Europe may benefit from higher protection levels than those in the USA, whereas employees in China may have difficulty accessing union representation.

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