UNI responds to EU white paper on Europe’s digital infrastructure needs

The ICT workforce is central to achieve all the objectives of the digital transformation.

UNI responds to EU white paper on Europe’s digital infrastructure needs

The European Commission has published a white paper ‘How to master Europe’s digital infrastructure needs?’ that analyses the multiple challenges Europe currently faces in the rollout of future connectivity networks. The paper presents possible scenarios to address those challenges, attract investment, foster innovation, increase security and achieve a true Digital Single Market.

UNI Europa has contributed a response to the white paper  to feed into the legislative debate. In general, UNI Europa welcomes the Commission’s white paper as it provides a thorough analysis of future investment needs and outlines a regulatory change in the European electronic communications sector. The EU’s connectivity infrastructure is not yet sufficiently developed to address the future challenges due to the digital transformation and the technological shift to cloud and edge computing.

New technologies

A sustainable, high-quality, and secure connectivity infrastructure is necessary to enable technologies such as edge computing, Internet of Things devices, artificial intelligence, 5G (and soon 6G) deployment or fibre networks. The availability of secure and high-quality connectivity across Europe, including in remote and rural areas, is crucial to enable all citizens to benefit from the opportunities of innovative technologies and services.

However, the Commission focuses on competition to drive investment. Truly sustainable competition for all industry players should not be solely based on prices, as this could impact on employment in the sector. A new strategy must combine incentives for investment – especially in underserved areas – and innovation and at the same time provide for the necessary labour market policies that maintain current jobs, promote upskilling opportunities and job creation.

Working conditions

The ICT workforce is central to achieve all these objectives. The white paper does not address the issue of employment growth sufficiently. Given the description of the new digital ecosystem presented in the White Paper, UNI Europa would have appreciated a reference to how new technologies, in particular AI, should be governed in relation to their impact on the workplace. Likewise, the proposal does not address how the productivity gains of AI can be fairly shared with the workforce (including working time reductions). Trade unions should be empowered to bargain on these gains, and we support the ETUC’s call for a Directive specifically dealing with AI at work, based on a human-centred approach and guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining on AI. 

To meet the demands of a changing market and to support the existing workforce in the sector, it is important that all stakeholders – including governments and social partners – find innovative solutions for upskilling, retraining, and transitioning of workers. At the same time, new job opportunities for young people must be created to close the skills gap in the sector. Social partners play an important part in the process and should be involved in the review of existing qualification and training programmes.

The transition to a new digital ecosystem can only be successful if we accompany the proposed actions by solid social policy measures, that minimise risks and maximise opportunities for European workers.

Read UNI Europa’s full response below.

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