With our campaign we intend to highlight positive and negative aspects of teleworking for workers and promote the regulation of telework. Only by regulating telework can we ensure that the advantages prevail and drawbacks are minimised.
Nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, telework has become an essential feature of the world of work and it is here to stay. With our new campaign ‘Telework: my right, my decision’, industriAll Europe starts a discussion on the positive and negative aspects for workers and highlights the need to regulate telework.
For industriAll Europe, the decision for or against telework must become an individual right, and this must include the right to revert the decision. Collective bargaining will be essential to negotiate the conditions for a worker-friendly telework option.
Telework is here to stay
During the first lockdown, nearly 40% of workers in the EU were reported to have switched to telework. Given that the pandemic has accelerated technology dissemination and the digitalisation of work, these numbers can be expected to have increased further. A recent report by the OECD suggests that “widespread telework may remain a permanent feature of the future working environment”.
If until now most employers were skeptical about telework, many of them are starting to recognise its advantages and consider switching to telework on a permanent basis. Car manufacturer PSA, for example, has announced that it will be moving all its employees who are not engaged in production into telework. This concerns 80,000 workers out of a global workforce of 200,000. Recent surveys* suggest that companies are planning to reduce office space, as many employees will be working remotely on a permanent basis.
Telework requires rules and social partner involvement
Telework has allowed work to continue where this was feasible and help protect workers from exposure to the virus. However, it was also imposed. For industriAll Europe, it is now essential that the decision for or against telework becomes a choice and an individual right. This must include the right to revert the decision to telework.
Crucially, if telework becomes a permanent feature of our working lives, trade unions and employers must negotiate and jointly set the conditions to regulate it. This will ensure that telework becomes an advantage for workers and not only a cost-reduction business strategy.
During the pandemic, telework had to be organised in many cases without pre-existing rules concerning equipment, working conditions, working time, data protection, social protection (including accident and health insurance) and without training in the new work methods. Trade unions are rising to the challenge and are increasingly involved in negotiations to regulate telework. Negotiations are taking place at all levels, but in the case of telework, company-level agreements are essential to define tailor-made arrangements that correspond to a company’s reality.
IndustriAll European Trade Union recognises the advantages, but also the potential dangers of teleworking for workers. We have formulated our initial demands in a recently adopted position, summarised in our campaign leaflet. Over the next five weeks, our campaign ‘Telework: My Right, My Choice’ will cast light on the complex aspects of telework and present trade union demands to ensure that telework benefits workers. The campaign will be carried out through publications on our website and social media.
Isabelle Barthès, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe, launched the campaign:
“Telework became an essential part of our working life almost overnight and trade unions had to rise to this challenge. At industriAll Europe, we recognised the urgency to respond to this development and decided to launch our campaign ‘Telework: my right, my decision’.
“With our campaign we intend to highlight positive and negative aspects of teleworking for workers and promote the regulation of telework. Only by regulating telework can we ensure that the advantages prevail and drawbacks are minimised. Collective bargaining at all levels will be key to ensure a worker-friendly telework option.”
* Deloitte’s European CFO Survey Autumn 2020 revealed that in Germany, 4 out of 10 chief financial officers plan to reduce office capacities. A survey of the European Round Table for Industry (ERT) found that 81% of their leaders expect to reduce office space and air travel due to the increasing prevalence and practicality of telework