Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 2 2007, page 91-107.
As a prime tool in the modernization or marketization of the public sector public services have been outsourced and contracted. In Denmark recent ﬁ ndings suggest that a disproportionately large part of the persons absent or early retired due to illness are or were occupied in commercial companies in such trades as refuse collection, public transport or cleaning. In the article the results of a study of the developments in the working conditions of refuse collectors are presented. Refuse collection has been the most outsourced public service in Denmark since the EU guidelines on public procurement entered into force in 1993. An analysis of the results showing a general deterioration of working conditions in respect of health and safety, competence building and job security suggests that the causes are not found in the formal, regulative institutional context at international or national level. Rather, the causes are found in the informal context of the marketization of the service, consisting of municipal cost saving strategies guiding their contracting practices, market forces in a highly competitive market and counter-productive survival strategies of refuse collectors. Initiatives to change the institutional context are called for to render improved quality in the service, thereby ensuring both improved working conditions and environmental results.