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Workers without workplaces and unions without unity. Non-standard forms of employment and collective rights

Non-standard forms of employment (NSFE) are on the rise in different sectors and various countries all over the world. Concomitantly, technological and organizational change represents a major challenge for collective bargaining systems, given that they are often still predicated on the concept of a standard employment relationship. Meanwhile, some innovative and spontaneous solutions are emerging. In order for collective bargaining, unions, and business associations to continue to be impactful in the “new world of work”, it may be necessary to adapt the way they currently operate. There may also be a need to adjust or update the relevant legal frameworks. This article investigates challenges to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining for non-standard workers, from a legal and practical perspective. In particular, the article examines the relevant legal framework with a critical approach and stresses the relevance of legal hurdles that non-standard workers face. After presenting the legal determinants of NSFE, the paper provides an analysis of existing legal frameworks regulating the organization of non-standard forms of work and the negotiation of terms and conditions of work at the supranational level, with a particular focus on the implications related to competition law and its rigid limits in the European Union system. Finally, it sketches a mapping of nascent initiatives of workers’ organization, by distinguishing classic resources of unionization from other tools (e.g. social media groups, strategic litigation, rating widgets) in a selection of European countries.


Citation: Published by: Bulletin of Comparative Labour Relations, Employment Relations in the 21st Century: Challenges for Theory and Research in a Changing World of Work, Kluwer Law International
Editors: Pulignano, V. & Hendrickx, F.