Digitisation and robotisation of work in the automobile industry, new challenges for trade union work

From May 4th to May 5th 2017, a seminar entitled "Digitisation and robotisation of work in the automobile industry, new challenges for trade union work" organized by Munkástanácsok Országos Szövetsége (MOSZ) took place in Budapest, with the support of EZA and of the European Union.

A total of 38 representatives from Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain, Austria, Lithuania, Slovakia, Cyprus, FYR Macedonia, the Netherlands, Serbia and Albania participated in the seminar, discussing the changes in the working world regarding digital work places and the labour market.

The seminar was part of the EZA project coordination on "Digital working environment - technological developments and changes in the workplace".

The vice-president of MOSZ Gábor Holecz, responsible for the public sector, welcomed the participants. He stressed that it was a great pleasure for MOSZ that the second seminar on this topic could be held in Budapest. It is particularly difficult to keep pace with the rapid changes, and such an exchange of experience will help to identify the problems and challenges with which Hungary is faced, which can then be passed on to the decision-makers of the European Union.

In his opening speech, Andreas Gjecaj said that digitization could change not only our working conditions, but also our lives. We, the trade unions, would have to see, aside from the problems, the possibilities as well. The increase in data traffic brings with it a new era: The school system would change; young people would have to learn new skills. Digitalization, however, also offers possibilities: in the future, the constraint of manufacturing in Asia could disappear, and production could be brought back to Europe. The digital development, however, means that one becomes completely "transparent". All of our steps could be followed; therefore, data security and personal security are further challenges. The greatest difficulty, however, is the task of preserving the trade union results regarding work in the digital world.

The vice president of LDF and project coordinator Jelena Soms, who reported why EZA considers this issue to be important, presented the contents of the project coordination in which six seminars are organized. Digitization would have an enormous impact on the labour market and would affect all areas of life. This means possibilities and threats at the same time.

There were two schools, two approaches:

1.    Job losses, decrease of gains of the affluent society

2.    New workplaces after digitization

According to the European Commission, the digital economy is generating growth and new employment opportunities, as it creates investment and increases innovation, resulting in lower prices. This is called the fourth industrial revolution, which cuts labour costs, while technology gains in importance. Digital jobs are part of the Europe 2020 strategy. New technologies are needed if the unions want to be winners.

It is important that new skills are needed in the future. At present, computers are not able to replace workers, so education is of central importance. People need to be more flexible and the signs of change must be recognized in time. It is important for trade unions to create new networks in the digital platforms. The most important task is the protection of workers. One should not work for 24 hours every day during the week. Everyone has the right to a rest day in order to "switch off". The employee may not be held responsible if his business mobile phone is switched off during free time. Often, also outside of work, one accesses the mobile phone, answers e-mails, and this is very dangerous. How to adjust the rights of workers to digitisation?

The vice president of the post office at MOST, Pfeifer Tamása, emphasized: One should deal with wages because there is a migration movement of the workforce from the east towards the west, whereby the knowledge also goes away with the people.

Vice-President for legal studies Dr Judit Czugleré Iványi asked the following questions: Can digitisation have a positive impact, can we keep the workforce? How is the problem of generations treated? Which sectors are affected by digitisation and which are not? What cannot be robotised? Obviously, the problem solving capability cannot be robotised.

The Secretary of State for the Hungarian labour market and education Péter Cseresnyés reaffirmed that the economy in Hungary developed significantly, that the number of employees increased: today, 700,000 more people are working, compared to a year ago. With the economy 4.0 one can know with which challenges one is confronted. In some regions, there was a shortage of specialists, for which the Hungarian government has developed solutions, which form the core of the digital education strategy.

Cseresnyés summarized the social and economic effects of digitalization as follows:

-          affects all areas of life

-          helps, makes contacts faster

-          motivates one to learn

-          increases communication

It is relevant that the classical skills are not sufficient to keep a job - lifelong learning is necessary, you have to prepare each day for the difficulties of the following day. Some professions are automated and demand highly qualified people in the digital field. The demand for uneducated labour forces will be significantly reduced. Over the next few years, the number of jobs that can be carried out through long-distance work will expand. According to some studies, 7 million jobs will be abolished in the emerging markets and 2 million new ones created, while other studies show that the information and communications sector will create about 7 million new jobs by 2020 and much less will be abolished. Key competences will be fast integration capacity, social intelligence, assertiveness and orderliness.

The Secretary of State, Zoltán Marczingó, added: The aim is that the Hungarian companies produce goods with added value and that they are increasingly linked to international companies.

Dr. Veselina Starcheva, the leading international political counsellor at Prodkrepa, spoke about the situation of women in the digital world. She claimed that because of the increasing digitisation, workers would have to cope with more and more tasks in parallel and would become robots. She also saw a growing burden on women who not only had to master this but also had to cope with the majority of child-raising and domestic duties. This in turn means that they often have no time for further training. Trade union policies must take into account gender differences and the above-mentioned problems.

Vilmos Kozáry reported on competences and adaptability in the field of digitisation, the expert from MOSZ Miklós Pásztor presented the viewpoint of the EGSZB on the impact of digitisation on working conditions and on sustainable employment..

The PhD student Ildikó Rácz commented on the labor challenges of sharing economy regarding the Company Uber. It is problematic that increasingly work can be done from anywhere. The labor dilemma is that Sharing Economy is unsuitable for identifying the employment relationship. The example of Uber shows that labor law issues could be circumvented.

In 2016, the European organizations drew up a joint opinion on the digital economic model, for which the fair single market was used as example. The aim is to preserve the European social model, which is unique and valuable. The ETUC had drawn up a report in order to draw attention to what one had to be aware of.

In the future, laws need to be harmonized with digitisation. Many jobs would be lost. In some areas, workplace rights were weakened. However, reforms were already being carried out with regards to the labour market. Digitisation would contribute to economic growth, so the seminar participants saw the future in a bright light.

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