We speak of the digital future of work – but that future is NOW

Monday 15 April 2019

On 9 April 2019, the European Commission organised a High-Level Conference on the Future of Work with the slogan “Today, Tomorrow, for All”. At the conference the long-awaited High-level Expert Group on the Digital Transformation on EU Labour Markets launched their report under the same name.

Oliver Roethig took part in the conference and was eager to see the recommendations by the report yet was disappointed to see the dismal reference to social partners role in addressing the digital transformation on the EU labour markets. The report reflected the lack of representation of social partners within the expert group.

Why is it important to involve the social partners to address labour market matter? Well, the answer is simple: the employers and employees constitute the labour market and are evidently the closest to the labour market and knowing of the challenges and transformations taking place. Furthermore, social partner involvement and collaboration, such as through collective bargaining and sectoral social dialogue, enables stable solutions. It is about a mutual commitment to find and implement solutions that provide win-win situations.

Had UNI Europa been invited as the European Trade Union Federation highly affected by digitalisation in our services sectors, I would have highlighted three points more:

  • The future world of work is now. Whether speaking of our ICTS sector or our other sectors including Finance, Commerce, Cleaning, and Post & Logistics, digitalisation is affecting workers’ tasks and company structures across the labour market.
  • We cannot afford to neglect workers. Workers and companies call for better digital skills, and we have moved beyond the misconception that digital skills “come by themselves”. UNI Europa calls in our Vienna Declaration on Working Time for the right of workers to upskill and reskill within the working hours.
  • The digital gender and social gap must be addressed. UNI Europa is supportive of the increased interest the European Commission and Council Presidencies have placed on gender issues, but we go further to recognise the risks for the different workers. We see already now that digitalisation is causing polarisation of workers, where the losing and winning groups are becoming bigger and the mid-skilled will soon fall behind. It is often the well-paid jobs for women that disappear, and women often fall behind on the digital skills which creates risks for their professional progression. This must be addressed.

UNI Europa sits on the board of the Digital Skills and Job Coalition. Together with industry and the other key stakeholders, we will continue to push for a future-proof framework for the constant upskilling and training of every workers, whatever their skill levels. Digital skills are a key issue the future world of work. What we need, what Europe needs is a common EU strategy, with massive funding and sector approach with social partners at center. The focus needs to be on services and low- to mid-skilled jobs.

I say let’s speak about the NOW of the digitalising of the labour market. UNI Europa is always available to take up this talk.

Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary

#FutureofWork, #Digitalskills , @DigitalSkillsEU,  @UNI_Europa