The number of independent workers is growing rapidly within the European labour market (Leighton, 2014). These new autonomous workers represent a heterogeneous group of highly skilled professionals. They have various types of contracts, very different incomes, fragmented or inexistent social protection and in a wide array of economic sectors and professions. They work for themselves and sometimes employ others. This highly dynamic part of the current labour market is overlooked by official statistics, poorly understood in all its complexity and generally neglected by national and European policies.

The traditional framework of employment relations in Europe has been based on the collective negotiation between the organisations representing the employees’ interests – the Trade Unions), the employers and their associations, and the state (Visser, 2010; Crouch, Fred Biletnikoff Elite Jersey 2014).

This triangular employment relationship is hardly applicable to the employment situation of a growing part of independent workers who are difficult to organize and collectively represent, given the highly individualistic nature of their working conditions. However over the last decade, they have been organizing themselves through new forms of association based on regulation regimes – the Quasi Unions- (Hecksher e Carrè, 2006), as well as in new market-like forms, i.e. the Labour Market Intermediaries)(Autor, 2008).

I-WIRE is a research project that aims to:

  • investigate the social and professional needs and the representation demands of the new autonomous workers;
  • investigate the new forms of interests’ organisations: their presence and the answers they provide for new autonomous workers in the EU;
  • study the answers the traditional organisations of representation, the Trade Unions, are providing for the new autonomous workers, for instance by applying the servicing model (Traxles, 2005) or by activily organizing and looking for these workers (Ferge and Kelly, 2004), part of the overall “organizing the unorganized” strategy (Sullivan, 2010; McCormick e Hyman, 2013);
  • investigate the actual forms of dialogue between “traditional” and “new” organized interests and how they interlink;
  • understand the effects of coordination and social dialogue on the current knowledge economy in Europe and its repercussions on social inclusion and economic growth;
  • foster and test new forms of social dialogue and best practices between all relevant parties;
  • diffuse the research results through seminars, workshops and publications but also via local experiments of social dialogue, involving organized interest and public actors

Outputs and deliverables