In certain sectors – such as food and agriculture, the garment industry, road transport and construction – subcontracting practices are widespread, and abuse of workers’ rights is frequent. For companies in these sectors, subcontracting has become a strategy to increase their profit and competitiveness in the market.
Initially foreseen as a temporary solution to flexibly adapt to the market or to perform tasks that do not belong to the company’s core business, subcontracting nowadays can concern almost the entire production process. Sometimes, even the core activities of a company or sector are carried out by subcontracted workers, who perform the same tasks in the same workplace as employees directly employed by the client company or main contractor. The more complex a subcontracting chain, the higher the probability that workers’ rights are abused along the chain.
Between 2019-2021, the ETUC was running a project on securing workers’ rights in subcontracting chains through a more consistent EU approach towards subcontracting (Co-financed by EU).
There is a need to create better tools and conditions for workers’ and their representatives to know about their rights and to be informed and consulted about the practices of their company along its subcontracting chain. Strengthening the legal framework on subcontracting and making trade unions’ and workers’ representatives’ involvement an essential part of it would help improving the working conditions for millions of workers in the EU.