In Dublin, on 11 and 12 February 2020, FIM, FIA, UNI-MEI and EFJ –with the support of SIPTU– organised the final conference of the European project on unionisation and collective bargaining for freelance workers in the entertainment and media sectors.
Opened by a speech from Patricia King, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the conference brought together over one hundred participants from European Union countries or candidates to accession. The debates included representatives from unions, the European Commission, the OECD, ILO, ETUC and governments, as well as university academics, researchers and lawyers specialising in labour law.
Presentations and discussions showed that things were developing in a positive way. For example, the authorities in charge of competition law enforcement in Ireland and the Netherlands are today more open-minded when it comes to access for freelancers to collective bargaining, on a labour market where supply largely exceeds demand. For its part, the OECD recognizes the positive impact of collective bargaining on the economy and its contribution to growth.
The OECD recognizes the positive impact of collective bargaining on the economy and its contribution to growth
Nevertheless, the legal questions around the notion of worker are still controversial and the excessively binary approach prevalent in the EU differs from that of ILO, which is comparatively more comprehensive and protective. It is also interesting to note that within the body of jurists who support the principle of wide access for freelancers to collective bargaining, legal analyses diverge as to the relevance of ECJ jurisprudence (FNV-KIEM ruling of 4 December 2014).
Facilitators Becky Wright, Kate Elliot and Tara O’Dowd presented the result of the work carried out with some unions. Representatives of the unions concerned expressed their satisfaction. Several indicated that they had taken advantage of this opportunity to review their approach to their freelance members. In some countries, there had been initiatives to strengthen the union and attract new members.
Over the coming months, a publication presenting good practices covering unionisation of freelancers will be made available. Moreover, the four federations will be studying how to follow up this project, whether this concerns strengthening unions, relationships with competition authorities or the best way to ensure real protection for all workers, regardless of the legal qualification of their contracts.