Contractors urged to fight for better conditions on May Day

Friday 2 May 2014

Contractors are being told to use May Day to fight for better conditions, as the rest of the labour force takes a day off.

The European Freelancers' Movement claims the holiday - held on May 1st is most countries and May 5th in the UK - is the perfect opportunity to highlight the plight of the self-employed.

Currently, businesses aren't obliged to give flexible workers a day off on May Day or any other scheduled holiday.

The European Freelancers' Movement wants contractors to sign a five-point manifesto to change this.

Within the document, the group calls for better recognition for freelancers, greater access to services and fairer treatment from governments and businesses.

If the manifesto becomes recognised by governments, freelancers will be able to draw on government assistance and funding, which they are often excluded from.

It is also hopes statistical collation will improve, as official data on freelancers in often unreliable in Europe.

What's more, the European Freelancers' Movement wants governments to consult with freelance organisations when drafting policy.

Joel Dullroy, a co-ordinator of the European Freelancers' Movement, said: "There are more than nine million freelancers across Europe today, and we're no longer an ignorable minority. We have specific needs and concerns, and governments will have to start taking us seriously.

"These simple requests are the most basic first steps politicians can take to improving conditions for independent workers."

The manifesto will be presented to the European Parliament after the election and it is hoped it will lead to change for the industry.

For UK contractors this will be particularly important as a battle rages on among experts over the nature of contractors and the contribution they make to the economy.

The Trades Union Congress has claimed that people only choose to become self-employed because they are unable to find permanent work.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Policy Studies has claimed that this group shouldn't be considered entrepreneurs as they don't aim to take on this role by driving innovation and challenging the status quo.

The PCG and the Entrepreneurs Alliance have hit back at these comments, claiming the increase in people choosing to become self-employed is a result of a change in the way people approach work. They also maintain that contractors, freelancers, limited companies and sole traders are crucial for driving the UK economy forward.

Indeed, over 70 per cent of new businesses are started from home - a figure that demonstrates how self-employment is linked to entrepreneurship.

In an open letter, the Entrepreneurs Alliance explained: "They are collaborating with fellow freelancers and professionals to grow the business through outsourcing and subcontracting, as opposed to hiring staff. This is, quite simply, the most entrepreneurial way to start and grow."

"They are driving growth in the UK economy and sharing innovation with big business, as seen in the rise of accelerators and labs from brands such as John Lewis, Tesco, Telefonica and Cisco," the document continued.

Yet the self-employed are often not that well protected and supported by government legislation. Through a better understanding of this way of working and the contribution it makes, it could be possible to create a fairer, more effective system.

By Victoria McDonnell

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