Socialist Worker

Use of subcontracting is a scandal

Issue No. 2138

The European Union (EU) Posted Workers Directive allows foreign contractors to hire staff from overseas for temporary projects, provided they are granted the same legal rights as British workers.

But it only entitles them to minimum labour standards – the minimum wage rather than the rate for the job.

Currently there are 47,000 British workers working in temporary work across Europe who are affected by the directive. This compares to the 15,000 EU workers posted in Britain.

Overall, as many as 1.5 million Britons work elsewhere in the EU.

One construction worker in Kent told Socialist Worker, “I do worry about the stuff about workers not allowed travel here to work. Building is a transitory business. It is always part the battle on the jobs. When a job comes to an end, people move on.

“The same subcontracting system that lets employers undercut the rate for the job lets them get away with blacklisting.”

As many as 40 percent of the 2.2 million building workers employed in Britain are falsely defined as “self-employed”.

Strikes and militant opposition in the 1970s challenged the system of subcontracted or “lump” labour – where workers are largely self-employed on temporary contracts.

The Viking and Laval cases in the European court aided the subcontracting systems and undermined workers’ rights. The British Labour government backed the bosses in both cases.

For more on the Viking and Laval cases go to » Labour’s attack on workers’ union rights

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