Industrial relations in the new digital economy: worker strategies and trade union answers

From 26 to 28 April 2019, a seminar on "Industrial relations in the new digital economy: worker strategies and trade union answers" was helt in Alcalá de Henares / Spain, organized by CEAT (Centro Español para Asuntos de los Trabajadores), with the support of EZA and the European Union.

Representatives of workers' organizations from Romania, Portugal, Italy, Lithuania, Germany, Belgium and Spain attended the seminar.

In the beginning, MEP Pablo Arias Echevarría presented the work on digitization that has been implemented in the EU so far. In 2009, a working group of digitization professionals was set up in the European Parliament. There, goals, priorities and initiatives for the digital economy were worked out. One conclusion is that digitization is a transversal process. The EU is trying to make digitization processes as flexible and straightforward as possible to facilitate decisions. One priority in this process is to achieve synergies that make work-life balance.

Patricia Nieto talked about the rights of workers and the different choices made by the courts, which can be contradictory due to the complexity of the matter. She also spoke about the different models that exist in different EU countries about legal status and forms of employment in the platform economy and European regulations. Ultimately, the platforms bring many difficulties, both to the labour lawyers and to the unions, though legislative improvements are slowly coming.

Other presentations dealt with the training of workers for employment in the new economy and the impact on the quality of jobs and the reconciliation of workers' working and private lives.

Also, trade union organizations articulated their positions on the challenges facing the digital economy, platforms and the cooperative economy for unions.

Participants were allowed to examine and analyse the difficulties that these new forms of employment entail. They influence the young people looking for a first job, which can lead to precariousness for them, and to inadequate long-term education of previously unemployed workers for an old workplace. The fourth industrial revolution, with its problems, poor legislation, lack of control and working modalities, must be an incentive for the social partners to help shape decent work for the workers of today and tomorrow. One must be aware of the fact that the new forms of employment will become established and they can offer many opportunities, although of course, they bring with them difficulties and dangers.

There were the following conclusions

- Endeavours to continuously train and acquire skills in digitization, training in languages and technological innovation and skills for new forms of employment in the digital economy and platforms will be supported and promoted.

- The creation of clear and precise standards, both at European and national level, is required, so that every single activity and work - many of them as a result of platforms, in start-up jobs and the cooperative economy – can be controlled and to ensure that tax criteria are met.