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Precarious work

Fighting job insecurity for transport workers

Work without guaranteed hours or benefits, such as healthcare and pensions, is becoming increasingly widespread.

It’s referred to as precarious, informal, casual, irregular, short-term, temporary, seasonal, freelance, self-employment, subcontracted or cash-in-hand – but whatever you call it, workers often lose out.

Disposable work for disposable transport workers

For some, informal work is a choice, but for most, especially young people, migrants and women, it simply means less pay, lower safety standards and positions that can be terminated without notice.

Precarious workers in road and urban transport could be:

  • self-employed ‘owner drivers’
  • mini-bus conductors casually employed by drivers
  • people who sell refreshments or petrol at bus and taxi stations
  • motorbike taxi workers
  • outsourced or temporary contractors in public transport
  • temporary agency workers, e.g. in call-centres and warehouses

Informal transport workers might have to change jobs regularly and accept work far away. There’s no training or career progression, nor any respect for their skilled and sometimes dangerous work – work and workers are seen as disposable.

Organising precarious workers

While we can do our best to resist the erosion of decent work, we will never win without organising those transport workers who are already in precarious and informal work.

If we don’t, companies will hire more unprotected agency workers so they can ignore rights and collective bargaining agreements.

Building new organisations, or recruiting large numbers of informal workers, sometimes with different priorities to existing union members, can be a challenge.