UNI Global Union affiliate’s German affiliate, ver.di, has signed the first ever digitalization agreement in the retail sector that promotes and protects the rights of 14,300 H&M workers over the next three years.
The breakthrough deal, which was hammered out over the last six months, means that workers will have a greater say in how new technology is deployed at the fashion giant, while also offering job security and bonuses.
The agreement establishes a digitalization advisory board (with ver.di and H&M reps) which will collect feedback from the workers and make its own proposals on the future world of work at H&M. It also extends the participation rights of the Central Works Council for H&M on the issues related with digitalization.
ver.di negotiator, Cosimo-Damiano Quinto, said:
“This is a great success, because it is the very first collective digitalization agreement in retail. We must be able to make decisions about digital technology in the interest of employees.”
The growth of online sales has meant a decrease in sales commission usually earned by workers in stores. To compensate these workers for the downturn in store sales, the agreement provides two bonuses per year. For 2023, the amount of each bonus will be between 250 Euros and 450 Euros (gross) depending on the working hours.
The agreement provides store workers will special protection against dismissal and demotion during the digitalization process, and ensures that that temporary workers will not be used to replace permanent H&M employees.
It also introduces an upskilling campaign for customer services to protect store workers from potential deskilling of their jobs.
From 2023 onwards, workshops will be held in selected pilot stores so workers will be able to assess the new working methods and provide feedback for the further revision of these methods.
Head of UNI Commerce, Mathias Bolton, said:
“We congratulate ver.di and H&M workers in Germany for negotiating and concluding this ground-breaking agreement. This agreement shows that a just transition to a highly digitalized retail sector can only be achieved through collective bargaining, active participation of the store workers, upskilling and appreciation of their hard work. We are looking forward to having this agreement presented as a best practice in our upcoming global conference.”