TransFormWork VS/2021/0014

Social partners together for digital transformation of the world of work. New dimensions of social dialogue deriving from the Autonomous Framework Agreement on Digitalisation – TransFormWork VS/2021/0014

The project TransFormWork, promoted by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria is focused on the implementation of the European Social Partners Framework Agreement on Digitalisation, June 2020, in 7 EU Member States (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Ireland Malta, Romania and Sweden) with the objective of exploring the impact of digitalisation on social dialogue at national level and to explore a number of good practice examples in the partner countries related to existing initiatives, practices and collective agreements in the context of the digital transformation of the world of work. The project seeks also to raise awareness of how with the implementation of right strategies the digital transformation could bring clear benefits and added value for employers and workers by providing new labour market opportunities, new ways of organising work and improvement in working conditions.

The project aims to support the implementation of the European Social Partners’ Framework Agreement as a prerequisite to the anticipated change that comes with digital transformation; the delivery of skills needed for workers and enterprises to succeed; to support the creation of new approaches at national level to adapt labour markets; provide essential education and training; to enhance the role of the social partners by ensuring that the framework conditions allow and support employers and workers to benefit from the opportunities; and to assist them in finding appropriate solutions to deal with the challenges.

The project will include various research activities, study visits, round tables and information days, including a final conference. Dissemination of the results will be through publications and the creation of a project website. The main target groups are representative trade union and employer organisations at the EU and Member State levels and National and EU policymakers.

This project will be carried out in full coordination with a complementary initiative: the project Implementation of the Framework Agreement on Digitalisation, to be promoted by the ETUC. The project led by ETUC will also address the implementation of the European Social Partners Framework Agreement on Digitalisation, but proposing to cover all the ETUC membership and aiming to inform ETUC affiliates about the agreement; to disseminate the agreement and to support its implementation.

It will enhance the capacities of the national social partners of the consortium to effectively contribute to challenges deriving from digitalisation as identified in a number of key European Commission documents. It will also contribute to the adaptation of social dialogue and collective bargaining at the national level to changes in employment and work, related to digitalisation. Having BusinessEurope and the ETUC as associate partners will allow a wide dissemination of the project results among all the affiliated members of these two key European Social Partner organisations.

Digital transformation of the economies and its impact on the whole spectrum of societal relations is of strategic importance for boosting economic potential, thus improving working and living conditions. The rapid invasion of technologies into the modern world brings numerous opportunities, but also raises many concerns for society at large, but, in particular for the world of work, concerns that need to be addressed.

European Commission

In its Communication A Stronger Social Еurope for Just Transitions the Commission sets out its plans for the upgrading of the European social market economy, so that it can

… fit the opportunities and challenges of today and tomorrow and ensure just transitions for all.

This Communication outlines the important impact of the digital economy on job opportunities and flexible work arrangements when it is states that:

It is expected that artificial intelligence and robotics alone will create almost 60 million

new jobs worldwide in the next 5 years, while many jobs will change or even disappear.

Consequently, in this Communication, the Commission commits to:

… explore ways to promote social dialogue and collective bargaining and increase the capacity of unions and employer organisations at the EU and national levels. An effective dialogue at company level is also crucial, especially when companies are restructuring or undergoing change.

With the publication of its Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe the European Commission has already begun a number of initiatives in order to transform European society to boost digital skills and learning across society and to ensure that EU Member States … can face the future with confidence.

In addition, the European Commission’sDigital Economy and Society Index (DESI) measures EU Member States’ performance, covering five dimensions:

  • Connectivity
  • Human capital
  • The use of the internet
  • Integration of digital technology
  • Integration of digital public services.

Although this Index does not measure the impact of digitalisation on the labour market, it might be used as an indicator when exploring to what extend digitalisation is a hot topic between the social partners. A simple comparison between DESI and the Social Scoreboard shows that countries performing well in DESI are also ranked as upper middle or higher performers. DESI shows a visible gap (especially with regard to the human capital indicator) across the Member States, so one of the challenges which this project will address is how to overcome this gap by the exchange of good practices and examples.

As digitalisation is still a relatively new topic for collective bargaining, another objective of this project is to help social partners in countries, ranked as lower performers (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania) to increase their capacities through peer reviews and the exchange of good practices with social partners from a better performing countries (Estonia, Sweden, Ireland and Malta).

EU Social Partners

In the sixth autonomous work programme (2019-2021) the European social partners set digitalisation as a lead priority. In June 2019, the EU social partners entered into negotiations with a view to concluding a non-legally binding European framework agreement on digitalisation. After almost 9 months of negotiations a proposal for a draft agreement on digitalisation was finalised by BusinessEurope, ETUC, CEEP and SMEunited, (June 2020):

In the context of article 155 of the Treaty, this autonomous European framework agreement commits the members of BusinessEurope, SMEunited, CEEP and ETUC (and the liaison committee EUROCADRES/CEC) to promote and to implement tools and measures, where necessary at national, sectoral and/or enterprise levels, in accordance with the procedures and practices specific to management and labour in the Member States and in the countries of the European Economic Area.

The project aims to contribute to the implementation of this European framework agreement on digitalisation and to disseminate and promote awareness of the outcomes of the European social partners’ autonomous dialogue. It will reinforce the capacities of less developed consortium partners to better reflect to the labour market challenges and industrial relations related to digitalisation. Through peer reviews, the exchange of good practices, the project consortium partners will enhance synergy in the implementation process.

International Labour Organisation (ILO)

Digital transformation leads to professional transformation and this is a key message in the ILO Centenary Declaration (2019). This Declaration recognises:

that social dialogue contributes to the overall cohesion of societies and is crucial for

a well-functioning and productive economy

Taking into account the profound transformations in the world of work and further developing its human-centred approach to the future of work, the Centenary Declaration commits the ILO to:

(i) ensuring a just transition to a future of work that contributes to sustainable

(ii) development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions harnessing the fullest potential of technological progress and productivity growth, including through social dialogue, to achieve decent work and sustainable development, which ensure dignity, self-fulfilment and a just sharing of the benefits for all.

… and invited member States to work individually and collectively, on the basis of tripartitism and social dialogue to:

policies and measures that ensure appropriate privacy and personal data protection, and respond to challenges and opportunities in the world of work relating to the digital transformation of work, including platform work.

So the digitalisation of work is to the forefront of both the European Union and ILO agendas for the coming decades.