Staffing levels, Digitalisation
Getting to grips with digitalisation
Digitalisation has the potential to positively transform public services and the jobs of public service workers. Quicker and easier access to services and increased participation of citizens can be combined with better quality jobs as repetitive work is replaced with more fulfilling tasks. However, trade unions must be involved in the transformation process not just to ensure that workers have their fare share of the benefits of digitalisation but also to deal with the potential downside. This briefing, produced for EPSU's 2019 Congress, highlights some of the work done on this issue in recent years and sets out the current priorities.
The GPA and vida trade unions that organise in private health and social care have launched a new campaign, “Words are not enough” with the support of their confederation, the ÖGB. The unions are calling for increased funding for the sectors to improve pay and conditions, increase staffing by at least 20000, reduce workloads and provide a further COVID bonus and additional time off. The unions say that applause and praise for health and social care staff is not enough and action is needed to increase the funding that covers private health and social care.
At the 14 October NEA committee meeting, about 35 delegates representing central governments in 20 countries reviewed the state of play with the EC-backed negotiations of an EU social partner agreement on digitalisation.
The FNV and other unions that organise in the eight university medical centres (UMCs) are planning a third day of industrial action on 25 November unless the employers show willingness to re-open negotiations over pay, workloads and staffing. This will be the third day of action in the UMCs that employ around 80000 workers. The employers have said that they will negotiate over allocation of the extra €60 million of funding for pay provided by the government. However, the unions argue that even with the additional money this would still leave a below-inflation pay rise for the next three years
Health unions organising in both the public (GÖD and younion) and private (vida and GPA) sectors united with other health organisations in a major nationwide action on 10 November to highlight the state of the health service and the need for urgent action. The unions stress that staffing shortages were already apparent before the pandemic and their impact now is to leave most health and care workers both physically and mentally exhausted. They underline the need for increased staffing, improved and additional training and better employment conditions if a dangerous crisis is to be avoided. On
Following last month’s strike in university medical centres, the FNV and other trade unions organised another national strike on 26 October, this time affecting more than three times as many departments across the eight centres. The action is effectively imposing a Sunday service across 279 departments including operating theatres, radiology services, laboratories, outpatient clinics and various nursing departments. All emergency care continues. The unions are calling for a 3% pay increase for all workers and action to tackle understaffing and excessive workloads.
The vpod/ssp trade union is mobilising for a national demonstration of health workers in Berne on 30 October. The aim of the protest is to highlight the efforts and sacrifices that health workers have made in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Key demands include a COVID bonus but also action to deal with the long-standing problems of pay and understaffing in the sector. The union is also calling for measures to improve training, work-life balance and retirement provision and argues that pay increases should reflect the arduousness of many health workers’ jobs.
A new report from municipal services union Kommunal reveals how the pandemic affected workers across the sectors in which it organises. Based on interviews with nurses, cleaners, paramedics, caretakers and other workers, the report confirms the huge impact on healthcare where workers’ efforts have been central to the management of the pandemic. Employees have had to make huge sacrifices, working extra shifts, double shifts and overtime, with many authorities having to hire temporary staff, get pensioners back to work and with staff having holidays cancelled or being transferred to different
A new report from the Eurofound research agency argues that social dialogue plays a critical role in digitalisation at the workplace. It says that an approach that disregards employee participation and engagement will amplify negative impacts on working conditions while in the context of technological change, social dialogue can encourage greater acceptance by employees of new technologies. Among other findings the report also warns that the Internet of Things raises the greatest concerns when used for employee performance monitoring, requiring greater safeguards to protect workers’
The European Commission has adapted its approach to digitalization in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and set out a range of policies, initiatives and targets for what it calls the digital decade up to 2030.
The ver.di services union is celebrating a major victory in Berlin where members in the health sector have been on strike for 31 days. Workers at the Charité university hospital, Vivantes clinics and their joint subsidiary, Labor Berlin, have now suspended the action, pending negotiations over new collective agreements. The key points in the new deal at the Charité hospital include more than 700 additional nursing staff to be hired over the next three years and there will be new benchmarks for staffing for specific wards such as intensive care units, operating theatres and central emergency
Two reports looking at union members’ views on digitalisation show that the lack of an employee perspective means that digital technology risks exacerbating existing problems at the workplace. An imbalance between the demands of new technology and the level of resources allocated to their introduction contributes to poor health and safety at work and high sick leave. The reports underline that employees need to be involved and also reveal that many union members do not believe that new digital tools meet the high expectations of increased efficiency and a better working environment. The