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PART V: Fighting Outsourcing and Precarious Work: The First Steps

PART V: Fighting Outsourcing and Precarious Work: The First Steps

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maintenance and repair workers, security, drivers, loaders…. The fact is that all of these workers contribute to the products that the company sells, and without them the company could not function. This means that the “core versus non-core” is a false distinction. For unions it’s important to regard all of these tasks as part of the workplace, and so all of the workers involved must be union members. If the management disagrees, then the union has to fight to make them agree. If the law states that these workers are not “regular” workers and so cannot be union members, then it is the law that must be changed, not the union’s position. All work that goes into the products sold by the company is “core”! “We don’t want to employ unqualified people like cleaning staff…” The fact is that the company DOES employ them! The only difference is that outsourced workers are employed under inferior pay and conditions, with little or no job security. ALL employees make a vital contribution to the company’s product. Is management indifferent to the quality and supply of the raw materials which enter the production chain? or to what happens to the product once it leaves the factory? Producing and delivering a product to consumers is the result of a complex system of arranging work. The employer must assume responsibility for the terms and conditions of employment of everyone whose activity throughout this system contributes to the product. “It’s only seasonal / It’s the nature of the business” Of course there are ups and downs in demand and as well as in the supply of raw materials, especially with changing seasons. But something else is going on here, and companies are abusing the situation. Let’s take a closer look. A season is a clearly defined time of year, not a week when a big order has come in. What is “seasonal” about temporarily hiring a worker for a week in summer in a chocolate factory, or for three weeks in winter in a coffee-processing plant? Many workers are permanently on standby, and never know when and for how long they will be employed. OUTSOURCING AND CASUALIZATION IN THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY 51

52 PART V Fighting Outsourcing and Precarious Work: The First Steps In cases like these, the truth is that workers are being “flexibly” hired and fired, directly or through an outsourcing arrangement, to compensate for poor planning or to meet the needs of “just in time” production. In other cases, “temporary workers” work all year on temporary contracts that are renewed every year or every couple of months. Management keeps workers in a dependent position and creates a buffer for future possible market downturn. In both cases, the temporary, “seasonal” workers bear the costs of the market ups and downs which are an inevitable part of any business. The “seasonality” in many cases is pure fiction to mask the fact that the company is increasing its profit by passing on the market risks to workers. We’ve seen the example of the Nestlé factory in Malaysia in Part III, which is hiring “seasonal” workers at all times of the year. At Nestlé, all seasons are temp season! “It’s only a probationary period” In most countries, the length of a probationary period is clearly defined by the law. It generally cannot exceed 3 or a maximum of 6 months. A probationary period longer than this is clearly an excuse or cover for cost-cutting and dividing the workforce. Unless, of course, we’re all to wind up on permanent probation! Act to ensure that no probationary period is allowed to exceed the legal maximum! “We’ll transfer them soon to permanent, after…” We’ve all heard this before: Just wait a little bit, until we … l finish the restructuring l make the investment l close the years’ balance l appoint the new director l secure down a new sales contract l etc. IUF

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