This situation, to some extent, has resulted from the growing numbers of contracts without job security, either on a part‑time basis or of limited duration. Moreover, in a context characterised by greater inequalities, forcing workers to compete with one another leads to a levelling down of working conditions, with the best‑protected employees ultimately seeing their situation slowly deteriorate.
This kind of competition is particularly visible between those regarded as “insiders” (those benefiting from already stable contracts, usually working in highly productive sectors) and “outsiders” (those recruited on a more flexible basis, often through temporary employment agencies, and mainly working in services or outsourced production activities). The levelling down of working conditions is also linked to de facto competition from undeclared workers.
The conditions imposed on migrants, especially those in irregular or illegal situations, are particularly alarming. Their vulnerable status often forces them to take on underpaid jobs in very poor working conditions, jeopardising their health (handling dangerous chemicals with no protection, long working hours, and so on). This is occuring particularly in sectors where few certified skills are required, such as catering, construction, farm or domestic work.
In this context of the precarisation of living and working conditions, several experiences are proposing different approaches towards improving work. Below are some examples.
Pictures by Marjan Lazarevski, Brunolaon, Coroutine, Rimaflow and Inkyhack
Examples of the different types of ACTIONS (in orange) and POLICIES (in green) that seek to provide access to decent working conditions as well to rethink employment and its role in accessing resources.
This practice consists in sharing a collaborative environment for work. Co-workers are usually self-employed workers, students or people working for different organisations that look for a space to develop their activities. It generally enables access to a desk, space for meetings, and material - the costs of which are being supported by the community of co-workers, such as high-tech equipment. It also provides a creative and inspiring environment for the people involved in the project.
One person = one voice
Organisations and businesses can be structured in very different ways. Some of the structuring consists in placing workers on an equal footing. This implies enabling each worker to take part in the decision-making process and to give the same value to his/her voice. The experiences based on the principal “one person = one voice” may have different internal organisation structures. In some cases an assembly of workers meets regularly to take decisions, in others there is a rotation of tasks which means that each worker is, at a certain point, part of the administration board. The principle of equal footing is quite often being chosen by former employees who have suffered the effects of a failed enterprise. This much is evident in the experiences of Ri-Maflow in Italy, Mol-matric in Spain or Ambiance Bois in France (here, workers also decided to receive an equal wage regardless of the task being performed). The Spanish and French experiences have been on-going for more than 25 years, demonstrating in this way the sustainability (in terms of time, for instance) of these models.
Limiting working hours
In societies characterised by high levels of unemployment (but also over-work, stress and low well-being) with little time for social and domestic work, limiting the working week whilst maintaining respectable wages is appearing as a path that could lead towards greater well-being for all.
- See the new economics foundation report on “21 hours: why a shorter working week can help us all to flourish in the 21st century”: http://dnwssx4l7gl7s.cloudfront.net/nefoundation/default/page/-/files/21_Hours.pdf
Separating work from access to resources
Even though the money earned from paid working activities is still the main way to access resources in European societies, it is not the only path. Other initiatives and practices propose alternative ways to access different resources.
For other examples, click on: Alternative Economies
Accessing dignified work
As mentioned, low-income and low-profile work are often characterised by irregular or poor working conditions. Norms and practices can help to improve the situation towards more dignified working conditions.
All Examples of Actions and Policies
Re Federico is a co-working space that experiments with new forms of economic collaboration. Development of a collective incubator of network enterprise in the cultural and environmental education areas.
After the closure of a factory, some laid-off workers occupy it, giving rise to a new cooperative by starting a project of production reconversion in the direction of environmental sustainability. They thus create new workspaces and income.