Employers association says:
“No future of work without social innovation”

Frank Pot

Early in October 2017, the World Employment Confederation or ‘the voice of the labour market enablers’ as they call themselves, published a Manifesto on the future of work. The WEC organises ‘labour market enablers’ in the employment industry worldwide. The title of this Manifesto is very encouraging for the workplace innovation community: “No future of work without social innovation. How to build open, inclusive, sustainable and enabling labour markets.”

It could have helped that the Netherlands, with its ‘social innovation tradition’, is very well represented in the Board of the WEC. ‘Social innovation’ in this title refers to ‘social innovation of work and employment’, more often called ‘workplace innovation’.

Among other things, the Manifesto describes ‘fulfilment and satisfaction at work as a way to drive employee engagement’ as well as ‘collaborative management and flat hierarchies (Holacracy) in order to boost business competitiveness’.

I think we can agree with many of the recommendations covered by the next 5 paragraph titles:

  1. Access for all: secure equal and full access to labour markets through diverse forms of work.
  2. A fair job for all: guarantee meaningful & decent working conditions regardless of an individual’s work contract, while also considering workers preferences.
  3. Towards a new Social Deal: implement modernised social protection schemes to reflect new workplaces.
  4. Skills for jobs: equip all workers with the skills they need to succeed in the labour market.
  5. Responsible intermediation: enforce a level-playing field between labour market intermediaries.

For some recommendations the outcome will depend on how they will be developed in the near future. I recommend reading the Manifesto.

However, many of the members of the WEC, at least in the Netherlands and I guess in other countries, do not comply with all these nice objectives. On the one hand, temporary agency work is rather well regulated nowadays in the Netherlands, legally as well as in collective agreements. On the other hand, the very same employment companies initiated new types of firms (for ‘pay-rolling’, ‘contracting’ and ‘intermediation of the self-employed’) using their own brands to avoid (parts of) the collective agreements negotiated by their mother companies through the employers’ associations. Everybody does, so it’s a race to the bottom.

I know that a number of board members in employment companies and in the employers’ associations worry about this trend, but it seems that nobody knows how to stop it. The Manifesto does not address the issue. For the trade unions in the Netherlands this was the main reason for leaving a couple of joint committees in 2016.

Nevertheless the Manifesto shows again that the workplace innovation community has important allies in the employment industry. A very good reason to strengthen alliances.