Employers reject EU cross-sector telework rights. Implement sectoral agreement on digitalisation and telework now!

digitalisation ©CanStockPhoto  photochecker

(Press Release - Brussels 28 November 2023) As the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic has gone, telework is here to stay with both advantages and risks in terms of excessive working time, additional expenses for workers and isolation. After more than one year of negotiations on telework and the right to disconnect, employers’ organisations Business Europe, SMEs United and SGIE (Services of General Interest Europe) pulled the plug on the draft agreement reached with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

EPSU General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan says” This is massive failure of employers to take responsibility and improve working conditions for workers doing telework. Employers had agreed with the ETUC in a joint workplan to update the 2002 Autonomous agreement on telework to be implemented as a directive for Council adoption in line with TFEU article 155.2.” The ETUC is now calling upon the Commission to submit a directive, in line with the Parliament’s call in 2021 for EU legislation on the right to disconnect.

The employers’ U-turn also represents a blow for the cross-sector social dialogue, as the last time EU social partners used their co-legislative prerogatives for a new agreement goes back to 1999.  “For the past 24 years, if it was not for the sectoral social dialogue, there wouldn’t be much left in the EU social dialogue. It is the EU sectoral social partners in transport, hairdressers, healthcare, central governments who struck agreements aimed to become legally binding.” adds Mr Goudriaan. 

Therefore, the  commission’s hostile attitude towards sectoral social dialogue and its outcomes with more cuts in its organisation as of 2024 is difficult to grasp as it is only at that level, that the EU social dialogue has been able to deliver concrete outcomes,  which even the European Council in its conclusions on telework recognises.

The Commission can still save EU social dialogue. It can implement our agreement on digitalisation we adopted a year ago, with strong provisions on telework and right to disconnect by legislation now. It further sets out a framework on how to deal with Artificial Intelligence at the workplace. It would be a step forward for 9 million workers and pave the way for other sectors of the economy, after all: governments can act as role models.” concludes Mr Goudriaan.

The sectoral agreement on digitalisation is in line with  the European Parliament’s resolution as it upholds the voluntary nature of telework and equal treatment with office work and introduces a right to disconnect.  Arguably it goes further than the failed cross-sector agreement with stronger provisions on everyone’s right to telework, on workload, on gender equality and anti-discrimination, on trade union rights including collective bargaining as well as training and health and safety. Importantly it recognises domestic violence in a context of teleworking as a serious concern leaving millions of women with no safe place to work.

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For more information Pablo Sanchez  [email protected]  0032474626633

Background

Following years of discussions and joint guidelines how to deal with digital technologies at the workplace, an agreement of digitalization between the trade unions and the central government administration employers was signed by ministers Petra de Sutter (Belgium) and Stanislas Guerini (France) behalf of the employers and trade union leaders Marco Ouwenhand, President of the trade union delegation and the EPSU GS. The employers and unions asked the Commission to implement the agreement into legislation for the sector using the procedure of article 155.2 in the Treaty. The Commission put the process on hold waiting for the outcome of the cross-sectoral negotiations. Since these failed, it is now time to implement the agreement.

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