RightsLab: Towards Transnational Labour Rights? Temporary Work Agencies and Third Country National Workers in the EU.



Project Description:

Acronym: RightsLab

Project No. MSCA-IF-EF-CAR: 893032

Title: Towards Transnational Labour Rights? Temporary Work Agencies and Third Country National Workers in the EU.

Duration of the project: 2021-2024

Countries in focus: Hungary, Italy, Poland, Ukraine

About RightsLab

The demand for a low-cost flexible workforce in the EU is increasingly resolved through employment of third country nationals (TCNs) via temporary work agencies. The latter offer a solution by providing a smooth supply of workers both in core EU member states, and in Central and Eastern Europe, which is in itself affected by considerable migration and labour mobility.

RightsLab explores the labour and employment conditions of Ukrainian transnational workers employed through work agencies and asks: how can we develop mechanisms of effective transnational labour rights for agency workers?

Aim: to advance the protection of agency workers’ transnational labour and social rights


Operational objectives: 

to map out and critically investigate the mechanisms and practices of transnational recruitment and employment chains involving temporary work agencies

to understand the pros and cons of such employment mechanisms for workers and the role each actor plays in such chains including the larger socio-economic picture

to evaluate the main risks/labour rights violations in such types of employment

to explore the possibilities for creating better mechanisms for cross-border labour rights protections and proposing empirically grounded interventions


RightsLab contributes to:

  1. a) updating existing theories on the social dimension of work and labour mobility
  2. b) developing policy advice on improving transnational labour protection
  3. c) developing existing while initiating new networks of solidarity and support for transnational workers



RightsLab combines a range of qualitative methods, including the collection of qualitative and ethnographic data on the meaning of mediated employment from gendered migrant workers’ perspectives, i.e. motives, job evaluation, insecurities, place in professional life trajectories, as determined by specific age, gender and life-stage period.

It provides an engaged, participatory stance, actively searching and connecting various participants of the research towards social change;

It provides a multiscale picture of emerging transnational employment regimes and transitional labour struggles through a focus on several levels of analysis: national and transnational regulations, organizational structures (trade unions, workers’ associations, NGOs) and personal experiences (agency owners/managers and workers themselves).


Commitment to civic participation and action research:


RightsLab bridges the gap between academic and policy research while building the capacity of labour rights activists;

… maps possible social actors of transnational labour protection from above (regulations) and below (networks of support and solidarity);

… focusing on issues of dignified work, vulnerability and solidarity as defined by workers, it cultivates a process of mutual education and applied knowledge coproduced for social change.


Secondment partners:

Democracy Institute, CEU, Budapest  / https://democracyinstitute.ceu.edu/

Nasz Wybor, Warsaw / https://naszwybor.org.pl/