The rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus over the past year, and the subsequent lockdowns, has accelerated the rise of remote work. To support trade unions around the world who are negotiating working conditions for this growing trend, UNI Global Union has released today key principles to advance remote workers’ rights.
These guidelines help guarantee that our evolving world of work reconciles employers’ and workers’ requests for more flexibility while safeguarding labour protections. They are centred around the core value that changing the geographic location of work does not alter the fundamental employment relationship.
“The pandemic has hastened the growth of remote work, and these principles ensure this development does not spur other trends—namely the creation of precarious jobs, the weakening of social protections, and the undermining of collective bargaining,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union.
“During COVID, trade unions have won the right to disconnect, reimbursement for remote work costs, and the end to invasive surveillance, and going forward, we must continue to innovate and share best practices to protect remote workers’ rights,” she continued.
For the launch, UNI held a virtual symposium with unions and workers from around the world to flesh out real-world applications of the principles. A future article will detail these unions’ stories.
The implications of remote work and collective bargaining are wide ranging. Employers cannot use remote work as a weapon to weaken trade unions, undermine collective bargaining, and diminish social dialogue. Barring a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, any shift to remote work must be voluntary, and it should always be negotiated with work-life balance, minimized surveillance, non-discrimination, and gender-neutrality as key priorities.
As remote work often saves operational costs associated with traditional worksites, employers should shoulder expenses related to remote work. Employers must also remain responsible for remote workers’ health and safety, including providing comprehensive insurance and liability, sick leave, quality work environments, ergonomics, and violence-free workplaces.
These fundamental principles, and the others discussed in this document, are critical to working people’s success outside of traditional job sites. They ensure that workers and employers can mutually benefit in the growth of remote work. Most importantly, they ensure that working remotely does not mean working without rights.
The full set of principles are below:
- Employers must guarantee freedom of association and collective bargaining for remote workers.
- Remote work should not undermine employment rights and the employment relationship with workers.
- Surveillance tools to monitor remote workers should be restricted.
- Remote work should be voluntary.
- Employers should respect regular working hours and the right to disconnect.
- Employers should remain responsible for the health and safety of workers.
- Work equipment and remote workspace costs should be the employer’s responsibility.
- Remote work should be ‘gender-neutral’ and open to all.
- Remote workers should have equal access to training and career development as employees in the physical office.
- Prior to introducing or extending remote work rules, trade unions and employers should thoroughly assess and document their impact.