From 24 to 27 May 2018 took place in Bucharest, Romania, a seminar about “Digitisation and social protection of employees in new forms of work”, organized by CNS "Cartel Alfa" / F.N. CORESI (Confederaţia Naţională Sindicală "Cartel Alfa" / Fundaţia Naţională CORESI), with the support of EZA and of the European Union. The seminar was part of the EZA project coordination about “New working relationships: digitalization and trade union strategies”. 42 representatives of workers’ organisations from Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Spain, Poland and Cyprus participated in the seminar.
One of the most important aspects of the seminar was the fact that representatives from a large scale of institutions and organisations gathered at the same table had the chance to exchange opinions and experiences, enriching in this manner the picture of the profound changes that affect modern society and economy, also reshaping labour relations.
Moreover, the event took place in a context when we are evaluating the effects of the radical change made at the end of last year by the Romanian Government in the way in which social contributions are paid, the national protection system now being almost entirely sustained by the workers. In that way, the event allowed the participants to reflect on the future possible configuration of social protection in the new economy and the new types of work relationships that the digital era brings.
During the sessions of the seminar have been discussed the following main themes:
- Atypical forms of employment at European level;
- Digitalization, risks and opportunities;
- Social protection in new forms of work;
- Qualitative and quantitative effects of digitalization;
- Challenges for social partners and successful approaches in working representation;
- Trade union strategies on the division of negative effects of digitalization.
One of the most appreciated presentations was made by prof. dr. Raluca Dimitriu from the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, “Atypical forms of employment” pointing to the ways the work relationship is being reshaped with the use of atypical and very atypical forms of employment. In the digital era work will be no longer articulated in standard employment contracts offering protection but it is increasingly pushed out from the protective regulation of labour law.
Other speakers have presented positive examples where trade union involvement is crucial in managing the effects of digitalisation and mechanisation in the workplace, by training, tackling health and safety issues and insuring that the workers are not the subject of constant monitoring. Also, such as in Lithuania, trade unions have successfully organised some categories of independent workers.
At the end of each discussion topics have drawn conclusions relevant to the future work of trade unions organizations.
The participants identified several future actions:
- Priority to protect the quality and financial sustainability of social welfare systems across the EU which must be adapted to accommodate the new forms of work; Ex. Statutory minimum wage for non-employees (in legislative meaning) and social insurance fees paid by everybody regardless of the kind of work he/she performs;
- Further analysis on the impact of these developments on skills as well as an assessment of what provisions for life-long training, re-skilling and up-skilling are available to workers under these new relationship;
- Statistics on these developments need to be gathered more routinely through national and European labour surveys, and labour market reports identifying best practice where it exists;
- Clarification of the legal status of new labour market intermediaries such as on-line platforms is urgently required to enable them to be identified and regulated;
- It is necessary to elaborate a strategy for unionize the workers in the new forms of employment.
- Labour inspectorates should be ensured a role to cover these employment forms in their remit according to national practices, with adequate resources;
- We cannot prevent digitalization; we must jointly find the solutions to diminish the negative effects on workers;
- To survive the threats brought by the 4.0 revolution it is important to build a supranational coalition of trade unions creating common standards for workers within the EU;
- To restore/ensure genuine social dialogue and collective bargaining at all levels and ensure trade union rights to all non-standard workers in order to allow them to enjoy the same benefits as standard workers.