The European Commission published its long-awaited proposal to regulate workers employed by platforms and the algorithms that dictate their work. Demands of the exploited riders and others supported by the European union movement are included in the proposal. A central point is to have a presumption of employment. The employer must be able to prove that there is no boss-worker relation. The directive proposal is significantly weakened, however, by allowing loopholes and escape routes for employers. This is an important issue for EPSU affiliates, especially in the care sector where the use of platforms has ballooned. The Commission further published guidelines on collective bargaining for the self-employed. If the self-employed came together to negotiate, they would currently risk violating competition rules. On the same day the Commission published a Social Economy Action Plan. The action plan is silent on promoting collective bargaining and social dialogue for workers in the social economy.
Sectoral Social Dialogues
There is much information on the work in the sectoral social dialogues in this newsletter. There is a joint statement with employers in the electricity sector; the contribution to the European Care Strategy with the social service employers; the ongoing negotiations on digitalisation in central government; and the work to influence the negotiations on the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive, for example. The CMD must include hazardous medical products and repro-toxins. EPSU will evaluate the work in the social dialogue as the Commission will publish a communication on this in the third quarter of 2022. That communication will consider the implications of the EPSU versus the Commission court case, as well as the Nahles report which called for more transparency on the process and criteria of social partner agreements that could become legislation.
Autonomous Lethal Weapons
As the year draws to a close, I am concerned about the current build-up of tensions in Europe. The republic of Srpska has left the Bosnian-Herzegovina Federation ushering in an uncertain period in the region. Russian troops are on the border with Ukraine and, given the war rhetoric in the USA and increase in delivery of weapons, it does not bode well. The working class has nothing to gain from those conflicts. The different actors need to deescalate the tension, reduce troops and weapons, and find solutions that move us all towards something better. The collaboration to build a treaty that would ban the use of Autonomous Lethal Weapons is encouraging. The European Parliament is supporting this. It demands legislation to ensure human control in the use of force and to prohibit machines that target people; reducing us to objects, stereotypes and data points. It is disappointing that Russia and the US reject the idea. Find more information on the campaign to stop killer robots here. These digital technologies are disruptive in many ways, leading to exploitation of platform workers and union busting via surveillance of workers by these new weapon systems. The way digital technologies impact our communities will remain an important area of work for EPSU to ensure humans remain in control and algorithms do not rule our world.
2021 comes to an end...
This is the last newsletter of the year. It has been a very dense year. There were achievements in many areas for Europe’s public service workers just looking back through the general newsletters and the collective bargaining newsletter. Solidarity delivers, as our support for the Italian waste workers has showed. And as in 2020, the health workers have been up to formidable challenge. The problems they are faced with have intensified as staff shortages have increased and as so many feel exhausted and see so little improvement, including in their pay and conditions. They are the example of workers delivering public services under difficult circumstances. We will continue to defend and promote their interests.