EPSU Youth Network Discussion on Teleworking - Ways to ensure Workers’ Rights when the Workplace is at Home

EPSU Youth network meeting 12 January 2021

(14 January 2021) On Tuesday, the 12th January 2021, the EPSU Youth Network held its first webinar of the new year, focusing on teleworking and work in the homeoffice. These relatively new ways of work have become particularly important during the pandemic, as a temporary measure, but will likely continue to play a bigger role in the long term. The goal of the online discussion was to promote an exchange of union responses among young unionists.

Burhan Yildiz, member of the Youth Network and international officer at Hizmet-Is, explained the strategy of his union in Turkey. He focused above all on safety and health issues and possibilities to prevent accidents at the workplace, if the workplace is at home. It is particularly important to adapt the definition of “workplace”, to cover all places where the employee performs their work for the employer. Moreover, Burhan discussed the importance of ergonomic equipment, but also possibilities for remote workplace inspections in the homeoffice, e.g. by relying on video calls and other technological means.

The second speaker was Massimo Cenciotti, national coordinator at FP CGIL. He spoke about CGIL’s negotiations on the use of wireless-trackers and webcams to check on and evaluate workers remotely. While modern technology allows to trace the flows of waste and facilitate its processing, it also allows to trace workers’ movement, risking a descent into a dystopian work environment of constant surveillance. To prevent this, unions need to reinforce the role of consultation and negotiation, train shop stewards and better tailor collective agreements.

Following this, 25 participants shared what their unions are doing to address a broad range of questions linked to workers’ rights and health during teleworking. The discussion was moderated by Plamena Parteniotis, member the of EPSU Youth Network. Throughout our discussions, it was clear that collective bargaining strategies must seek to actively shape the environment for teleworking.

In doing so, checklists and guidelines can be helpful. Below you will find resources that have been mentioned during our webinar, such as guidance by UNISON and ver.di as well as another recent reports by the ILO on ergonomics during teleworking. See also this checklist by the EU OSHA addressing a broad range of safety and health considerations during telework such as ergonomics, work equipment, stress etc.