The rights of workers and their participation in the labour market – recognition of these rights in the EU legislation and national law

A seminar was held in Madrid from 5th to 7th October on: “The rights of workers and their participation in the labour market – recognition of these rights in the EU legislation and national law”, organised by CEAT (Centro Español para Asuntos de los Trabajadores), with the support from EZA and the European Union.

Dr. DAVID CERVERA OLIVARES, President of CEAT, welcomed the participants to the seminar, and invited everyone to work in community and, through dialogue, to grow in society. He then introduced the participants to the opening session.

Dr. PIERGORGIO SCIAQUA, Co-President of EZA. He began his speech with a greeting to the participants, and then talked about the rights of Italian workers, as stipulated in the Italian constitution of 1948. He then analysed the situation of the company and trade unionism in Italy. He also talked about the social market economy, the social doctrine of the church and the work carried out by his organisation, the Laboratori Movement based on the Encyclical Rerum Novarum.

Dr. BENJAMÍN PRIETO VALENCIA, President of the Council of Cuenca, thanked the seminar for the invitation to talk at the opening session. He then spoke about the principles of solidarity for the needs of today's society and the current labour market and how it affects young people and people over 50 years old. Finally, he talked about the initiatives that his provincial council is developing with young people through the labour employment guarantee in a province where the depopulation of the rural environment has generated a society without young people. He also spoke about the welfare state, stating that the best way to make it a reality is to create quality employment.

Dr. RAFAEL AMO USANOS, Professor at the Comillas Pontifical University. Thanked the seminar for the invitation. He then talked about Workers' Rights based on the principle of participation. He stated that work is neither a scourge nor a punishment, but a good thing that dignifies humans in accordance with the social doctrine of the church. He then talked about the labour market, which should be a meeting place for social bodies.


SPEAKER: Dr. CELIA FERRERO, Vice-President of the Spanish National Federation of Associations of Self-Employed Workers (ATA)

The keynote lecture was delivered by Dr. CELIA FERRERO, entitled “The rights of self-employed workers in the digital economy”.

Before starting her speech, Dr. Ferrero wanted to define and clarify some concepts that tend to be confused by those who deal with these issues, i.e.: self-employed workers, platform workers and digital workers.

Once defined, he talked about other concepts including: habituality, which is a way of providing a service through weekly sporadic activities that depend on a platform. The incidence of habituality in autonomous working is important, as it occurs very frequently. Payroll coverage is a concept that is not recognised for self-employed workers. The right to calculate their remuneration is not recognised, so workers therefore choose the minimum contribution that does not correspond to their salaries. The demand-led market is the challenge faced by self-employed workers from an administrative and legal perspective. We must differentiate here between two forms of working: atypical work, where a service is provided at a particular time or part-time, is 40% and typical work, which relates to the fixed worker over 35 years old and salaried.

He then clarified the difference between Digital Work, which is work which is technology-based, Self-Employed Work, which is a sector that includes all workers who work for themselves such as drivers, craft workers, artists, lawyers, etc. and Platform Work includes workers who provide services to platforms or businesses through a service contract. This working has revealed much of the hidden or illegal work.

It was a lecture with a certain pedagogical slant and which clarified concepts, assigning to each group their rights regarding their salary, social production and social security contributions.


In the spirit of clarifying specific concepts, the next lecture was entitled: “Entrepreneurship and the creation of start-ups”, from Dr. EDUARDO DÍAZ SÁNCHEZ, Head of the Technology-Based Entrepreneur Area, Fundación para el conocimiento Madri+d (a foundation for knowledge).

He started by explaining the purpose of his organisation. Its objectives and aims are the entrepreneurship and technological training of entrepreneurs. It works in close collaboration with the universities, technology companies and the ITC companies, and promotes innovation and research into new products and services.

The Madri+d foundation provides new companies and start-ups with consultation and services to ensure their survival. Its methodology takes places in a series of steps: 1) Identification of ideas and activities the company would like to develop in the early stages of its formation. 2) Facilitate contact with the investment company. 3) Simulation of its operation. 4) Training entrepreneurs in the commercial aspects, business listings and promotional activities to promote their activities.

Once the company is constituted, the Madri+d foundation also offers sufficient financing through investment forums to ensure the company’s survival.



Dr. PATRICIA NIETO ROJAS, Graduate of Labour Sciences. Professor of Employment Law in the Charles III University of Madrid. She presented her paper on “The collaborative economy of traditional working to labour 4.0”.

She started her lecture by stating that traditional work cannot be separated from the industrial revolution, as labour 4.0 cannot be separated from the platform revolution. Platforms have arisen because consumers have changed and evolved in the way they consume, and emerging commercial sectors have taken advantage of platforms to generated added value for their products. Revolution 4.0 has changed the system of production and working methods, blurring both the workplace and the working practices and times that were established in the Industrial Revolution.

COLLABORATIVE ECONOMY is based on an activity that is carried out between individuals using the barter system, so we must differentiate between work in a collaborative economy from the one offered by the platforms.

The problems that arise for employment lawyers in the labour economy are difficult to solve:

  • In terms of the risks to which workers are subject
  • The creation of unfair competition
  • Activities are not for profit
  • There are no tax payments

In contrast, in the platform economy is one where:

  • The regulations of the statute of rights for workers are changed
  • Worker pay is low
  • Workers have no social protection
  • The company has absolute control.

What solutions can be offered? Faced with the regulatory chaos, the lack of clarity in the legislation and the ambiguous positions of the labour inspectorate and the labour court, it seems that the solution for platform work is to consider these workers as ECONOMICALLY DEPENDENT SELF-EMPLOYED WORKERS.

To round off the topic of the collaborative economy, a debate was presented on “Europe’s commitment to the collaborative economy”. Two countries, Portugal and Romania, have been selected to enable their representatives to see how this system has been incorporated into the labour market, and how users make use of it.

The first to speak in this talk was Dr. MARÍA REINA MARTIN, Vice-President of the IPCM (International Platform for Cooperation and Migration) and Executive Secretary of FIDESTRA (association for the training, research and social development of workers), Portugal with two questions: What is the collaborative economy? and What do I do, every day, as a user?

To answer these two questions, we played a video which first defines the term collaborative economy: a new activity within the market economy, which is governed by different forms of regulations for workers. A new offer of products and services is created in the collaborative economy at cheaper and more competitive prices. They are based on the digital sphere and, as a new system with many deficiencies in terms of regulations, it is necessary to consider new and appropriate regulations.

As consumers, we use it every day to purchase goods without realising that it is a different reality compared to traditional commerce. This system was launched in 2010 during the crisis and offered lower prices to consumers. The collaborative economy in Portugal is still low owing to misgivings about not seeing the product and not having the appropriate digital tools to use the system. As this system is easy to create and owing to its impact on society, it has generated employment to create new businesses. However, its lack of a regulatory structure has also generated risks and challenges and it does not take consumer rights and data protection sufficiently into account.

In terms of workers’ rights, a very generic regulation exists through Resolution 17203 of the European Parliament which is applied in different ways in every EU country so, faced with the problem of job insecurity, the EU should stipulate regulations that guarantee the rights of workers and human rights for all members of the EU, as the system is here to stay.

Dr. SILVIU TRAIAN ISPAS, President of the Economic and Social Training Institute (IFES) in Romania spoke, and explained the situation faced by the collaborative economy in Romania. He stated that Romanian society is fairly traditional, so the collaborative economy has not gained a strong foothold currently. The sectors in which the system has been implemented have resulted in problems of unfair competition, i.e. taxis, ITV, etc. These problems have prompted strikes and appeals to the courts.

To conclude the lectures on the collaborative economy, it was stipulated that the new working system of the collaborative economy should be more closely regulated owing to an absence of legislation and lack of control of its activity to better serve the users, because conflicts will increase in the absence of regulations.


Two papers were presented that analysed competences and skills both in the education system and in employee training throughout their working lives.

Dr. MARTA ENCINAS-MARTIN, OECD analyst, began his lecture by presenting a series of graphs on the situation in the different countries in educational skills of students in educational systems. The graphics show that the Asian countries, who were lagging behind in skills, are those that have advanced the most today, whereas the countries that were the most advanced have now stagnated.

He also highlighted the polarisation of occupational structures in jobs between highly skilled and low skilled workers, and between different forms of work, both typical and atypical that can lead to greater polarisation in the salary structure.

The demand for highly qualified workers or university students is growing, because companies require high skills and abilities in a digitised system. So, it is not true that there are too many university students in Spain.

The shift towards intensive production modes could drive further declines in the share of GDP in employment and consequently new inequalities in the regions and in the occupational structures, as the employees filling the new jobs arising in the platforms and the start-up posts have to be highly qualified.

In order to achieve high qualifications, both the OECD and PISA recommend that competence and skills training should be start in school and the education systems should not separate students from the start of their training.

Similar to the previous speaker, Dr. ISMAEL SANZ LABRADOR, General Director of Scholarships and Grants for the Study of the Community of Madrid, began his presentation by talking about the programmes initiated by the Municipality of Madrid to equip the students, mainly in the areas of reading and science in accordance with the PISA recommendations.

He then provided an overview of the academic situation of young people aged 16-26 in the EU member states using various graphs showing training, training-employment and the use of new technologies. He supported the integration and entry of students into the labour market through vocational training and, in particular, the higher degree, because studies improve remuneration prospects. The speaker concluded that, without good training, competence with the new technologies and learning languages, young people would struggle to access quality employment due to a lack of skills and competences.

The training of young people should be the basic pillar and should serve to achieve a balanced transition between training and employment, providing and equipping students and young people who will have access to a first job, with skills and abilities in a globalised economy and a highly competitive labour market.


As a counterpoint to the academic presentations, the USO (Workers’ Union)Trade Union representative delivered another lecture, and members of trade union organisations affiliated to EZA engaged in discussions and explained their positions on the challenge that the digital economy and the current labour market poses to the trade unions.

Dr. JOSÉ LUIS FERNÁNDEZ SANTILLANA, Director of Studies at USO (Workers’ Union) gave his lecture on: “Trade unions in a 2.0 economy”. His presentation was based on his many years of experience as the President of the USO teaching federation. He doesn’t like the term digital trade unionism, as trade union representatives should dedicate themselves to managing and putting forward proposals to workers and improving their services in real time. They key to trade unionism should be a tool that workers can use to provide solutions to problems that arise for workers in their working lives. Of course, the union has to use the new technologies, but you cannot entirely abandon the old, as some tasks can be carried out by robots and others not.


The first speaker was Dr. MATTIAS HOMEY, Head of Seminars and Research of the German European Centre for Workers’ Questions (EZA).

He began his speech by stating that old trade unionism was based on the strength of collectivism, and digital trade unionism has to adapt to the specific nature of the work.

Various trade union activities were discussed at the different EZA seminars which should be noted by the unions, including:

  • Regulations
  • The use of new technologies by the unions in their work to attract members
  • Implementation of continuous professional training throughout the working life
  • Provide training for new skills for jobs arising from the new technologies
  • Application of collective bargaining based on new formulas.

Unions must implement new ideas when considering workers and citizens, including: intergenerational contract, data protection, consumer care and training for new jobs arising from the new technologies, the collaborative economy, platforms and self-employment.

Dr. FERNANDO MOURA, President of FIDESTRA (Portugal).

He started his lecture by stating that change for the sake of change in trade unionism is a mistake, because the changes have changed society. The changes that have occurred today have been in the digital economy, which forces us to establish new laws and regulations in a more competitive economy and labour market. Trade unions cannot ignore the changes in society.

Dr. IMRE SZILARDSZABO, Head of the Secretariat of MOSZ (National Federation of Workers’ Councils), Hungary.

He stated that the regulatory standards arising with new jobs in the digital economy and the platforms are a challenge to the unions. The role of unions today should be to protect workers by providing training and information about their rights. In accordance with the Frankfurt conference, unions should intervene in all the activities of workers, whether they are active in the traditional systems or the platforms, otherwise trade unionism will be very restricted.

Dr. ANTONIO MATOS CRISTOVAO, President of CIFOTIE (International Training Centre for Workers in Industry and the Energy Sector), Portugal

He has listened to the analysis of membership and trade unionism and the serious problems that arise with the new forms of work, but the cure for the disease has still not been found. As a trade unionist, he states there is no crisis in the unions, but there has been no way to date of organising trade unions in the face of the new challenges of a digital economy.

Dr. LUBOS MARTINÁK, Independent Christian Departments of Slovenia (NKOS)

He stated that the unions should serve as coordinators and support workers in a negotiated settlement with the company. He supported the vocational training of workers, and particularly training both within the capabilities of the company, social organisations and trade unions. He appealed to trade union organisations to attract young Slovenians to avoid them moving to other countries where competition is higher.


Once the discussions were concluded, the seminar was closed by the President of EZA Dr. BARTHO PRONK,the President of CEAT Dr. DAVID CERVERA OLIVARES and the Honorary President of CEAT, Dr. JESÚS CASADO GONZALO.

At the closing of the seminar, the participants thanked the speakers and moderators for the high standard of presentations and also the translators who received hearty applause. The conclusions are contained in a separate attachment.


1. Revolution 4.0 has its problems, and the absence of regulations is here to stay in the production system, therefore social bodies, workers and consumers should seek to create suitable formulas to create opportunities for new jobs.

2. CEAT requires clear and precise regulations to ensure that jobs in the digital economy in platforms, start-ups, the collaborative economy and the self-employed sphere are subject to the appropriate controls and taxation.

3. CEAT supports and promotes the continuous training of workers in digitisation, language training, technological innovations and skills.

4. As the platforms have emerged with the support of consumers, and have changed and transformed the way we consume, we consumers must participate in the management and productive operations.

5. Faced with job insecurity which is prevalent in the new labour market in the digital economy, CEAT will help the EU to establish clear and common legislation in all member countries.

6. Given the demand for highly qualified workers with the skill and competences required by the new technology and digital companies, CEAT will support continuous training throughout their working life, either through the company, universities or social bodies.

7. Both traditional and digital trade unionism should serve as a tool to provide solutions to the problems arising for workers in the workplace, and trade union leaders cannot be indifferent to the changes in society and in companies.