(Brussels 6 October 2022) On Thursday, 6 October the EU social partners for central governments - Trade Unions’ National and European Administration Delegation (TUNED) for the trade union side and European Public Administration Employers (EUPAE) for the employers - signed a new agreement on digitalisation with the participation of the European Commission (DG EMPL Deputy Director General Mr Olsson).
The agreement provides for new or stronger protection on the rights to telework; to disconnect; to training; to health and safety; to the protection of personal data; and to a human in-command and more strategic approach to artificial intelligence.
Increased public investment is needed to develop public sector IT skills to develop a more strategic approach to digitalisation better adapted to employees, the administration and citizens. The agreement was negotiated for over a year, starting in January 2021 until the end of January 2022, exclusively online due to the Covid-19 pandemic context. The negotiations benefited from the financial support of the European Commission (online platform meetings, interpretation).
As the Covid-19 pandemic has generalised telework across the state sector, the agreement ascertains it must remain voluntary, reversible and available for every worker based on a joint analysis with the unions of tasks and activities and with the necessary support and equipment to work from home. It encourages national social partners to ensure that additional expenses related to telework are duly compensated in negotiation with the trade unions. The right to disconnect is clearly spelled out in the agreement, which every worker should be informed about before teleworking. A provision of the agreement underlines the workplace dimension of domestic violence.
The agreement also provides for a strong health and safety dimension of digitalisation. It reaffirms the employers’ duty to carry out regular health risk assessments in consultation of trade unions. The risk assessments must include staffing levels amongst others.
The agreement will be followed by the submission by social partners of a request to the Commission for implementation in line with article 155.2 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union with a view to becoming legally binding so that about 9 million public workers and civil servants can benefit from it in a coherent and consistent way.
The agreement builds upon both the cross-sector agreements on digitalisation (2020) and on telework (2002). It is one of the outcomes of the project run by central government social partners - led by the Italian administration - on digitalisation and work/life balance in 2018-19, which foresaw the possibility of reaching a broader agreement on all matters related to digitalisation.
As the cross-sector social partners will shortly start negotiating revisions to the 2002 framework agreement on telework to make it more relevant and legally binding and on the right to disconnect, the CGA agreement’s related provisions provide a good starting point for those negotiations.
Nadja Salson, TUNED coordinator: [email protected] 00 32 475961011
Faustine Bentaberry for EUPAE France: [email protected]
Jacques Druart for EUPAE Belgium: [email protected]