(20 September 2016) EPSU General Secretary, Jan Willem Goudriaan, today participated in a roundtable between trade unions and employers, and Commissioner Oettinger, responsible for digital policy at the European Commission.
There are undoubtedly huge challenges facing European workers as industries, public services and the whole economy digitalises. A key component to making sure workers don’t get left behind is equipping all workers with the skills they need to enjoy decent and rewarding careers in this new economy.
23 representatives from European trade unions and employers’ associations participated in the meeting. There is a wide level of agreement on the need for action to upskill the European workforce. The trade unionists made it clear that this means investment, full involvement of the social partners and a joined-up approach from the European Commission and member states. Digitalisation strategies cannot, for example, just leave employment and working condition issues to the side.
Mr Goudriaan, representing EPSU, pointed out already existing examples of good practice where employers and trade unions have worked together in healthcare to ensure quality training throughout workers’ careers. Social partners are involved in Continuous Professional Development and Vocational Education and Training. A key role for the unions and employers is to consider together how digital skills are integrated. The Commission can stimulate and promote as well as fund such sector work. He also emphasised the role of public services themselves in improving digital skills. Local government and public employment agencies are well placed to ensure connectivity and deliver basic digital training as these actors are best able to reach out to the most excluded, who private-sector training, or market-driven internet provision, might miss. EPSU has recently worked with its European counters parts – the CEMR Employers platform (municipalities) and HOSPEEM (hospital sectors) to assess and address the impact of digitalisation on these sectors. With Eurelectric (electricity sector) we have considered the impact of smart readers on jobs for example.
Finally, Mr Goudriaan highlighted the danger of widening the gender pay gap and risks to women’s inclusion in the workforce by not acting to address the severe gender imbalance in IT jobs.