ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch speech to EU Social Summit

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch

Introduction of the European Social Partners Framework Agreement on Digitalisation

Esther Lynch, Deputy General Secretary

On the occasion of the signing of the Agreement at the Tripartite Social Summit, 23rd June 2020

One of the deadly sins of management is to believe that successful digital transformation begins and ends with decisions taken in the board room it doesn’t – successful change is negotiated with workers and their unions. Successful digital change is more than technology it needs an organisation wide approach – covering working conditions, health and safety, the way the work is organised, the skills of the workforce, their job and employment security, the work culture and the relationships between people.   

This is why Social Dialogue needs to be a building block for a work led recovery.  Our EU Social Model gives us a competitive advantage – it means we can move our industries, businesses and economies to the world of digital better faster and without leaving people or regions behind.

Our Framework Agreement sets out a blue print for a just digital transition.  It is as relevant to dealing with situations of difficulty such as experienced in the wake of covid-19 as it is for managing planned change.

This Agreement is a framework that came out of 9 months of hard negotiation and I would like to thank the trade union delegation and recognise the work of the employers delegations and their negotiator Kris De Meester too.

The opening sentence of the Agreement sets the scene. It commits to a shared vision for a negotiated, agreed and consensual change that minimises risks and ensures the best possible outcome for both the organisation and its workforce.

And then it sets out a negotiators map, a partnership process built on

  1. Joint creation and ownership of a vision for the digital organisation
  2. Joint mapping and needs assessment – a realistic assessment of external and internal realities;
  3. Joint adoption of the steps to be taken;
  4. Joint monitoring and evaluation to check the plan is working the way it was intended to.

It provides measures to be considered during the negotiations

1: Skills and employment security – a change to a learning culture –  learning plans for workers that includes the training that is paid for by the employer, a commitment to the redisgn of jobs that allow works to remain in the enterprise rather than redundancies. And the need for attention that the new jobs or processes do not re-create old discriminations but instead promote equal opportunities for both men and women.

2 Modalities of connecting and disconnection – this has gained most attention, it is not the RIGHT TO DISCONNECT – rather that the negotiated agreement would guarantee that workers are not obliged to be contactable and if they are then working time is still respected and if extra work is undertaken then paid overtime or other fair  compensation is provided.

3 Human in control principle – the agreement needs to set out that workers are be able to turn the robot off and that AI has to be constantly tested,

4 Respect of human dignity and the safeguards on use of surveillance are all the more relevant now in times of track and trace

Finally the ETUC is committed to promote this agreement with our affiliates at national, sector and transnational level. In turn our affiliates will shortly be writing to their national and sectoral counterparts requesting that the negotiations begin on the implementation of the Agreement.

We call for supports for this from our Employer Social Partners and from the EU and Governments.