UNI leadership gets the message out on the challenges of the new world of work

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Labour leaders at the UNI Europa Regional Conference, spell out the challenges of the sharing ‘gig’ economy

UNI leaders gathered in Rome for the UNI Europa Regional conference got the message out to the Italian and international media: the explosion of the sharing economy is threatening to “kneecap” workers’ rights and social protection systems dating back to the 19th Century.

Putting both the Conference and the challenges facing Europe in context, Oliver Roethig, UNI Europa Regional Secretary quoted in the leading Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, said, “The theme of our conference is Changing Europe Together. Europe is changing, with us or without us. So rather than being afraid of change, I urge us to be excited, even to be exhilarated. Europe is changing, regardless. The difference we can make is how it changes.”

The media, including the leading international press agency AFP and the top Italian press agency ANSA picked up on the point that governments need to wake up to the scale of change underway in labour markets.

In an AFP syndicated around the world, UNI Global Union General Secretary, Philip Jennings said, “There is a growing realisation it really is different this time. It has become very clear to us that the digi-capitalist is as red-necked and rough as their industrial forefathers were. The click and go, click and leave economy cannot be allowed to kneecap workers’ opportunities.”

Jennings said governments were waking up to the implications of companies like Uber being able to profit from the services of workers while avoiding paying taxes and obecause their drivers are classified as self-employed.

“As unions we come at the problem from the point of view of trying to ensure dignity in work. They (the ministers) see it as destroying a social insurance model based on work that has been around in Europe since the time of Bismark.”

Read the full AFP article here: http://www.afp.com/en/news/workers-rights-kneecapped-sharing-economy-unions

The media spotlight shone particularly sharply on the General Secretary of CGIL, Italy, Susanna Camusso and the President of ver.di, as well as UNI Europa President, Frank Bsirske. They, among other leaders at the Conference were quoted widely in the Italian press.

Camusso, quoted in several leading Italian press and television, said , “It is appropriate we are meeting in the city where the EU was founded because what we need now is a Europe as it was at the beginning, not as it has become today.”

Bsirske said owners of digital platforms could not believe their luck in being able to employ workers for exactly as long as they are needed, then discard them the moment they are no longer required.