More and more systems using artificial intelligence are found in our sectors. These systems are often processing workers’ personal data. Workers’ representatives need to make sure that workers’ data is protected and that the appropriate safeguards are implemented.
IndustriAll Europe discussed with trade union representatives from all over Europe how the GDPR can be used to protect workers and their personal data. The sharing of examples from different sectors and countries showed that the reality at the workplace is very diverse. Some colleagues even reported that employers sometimes misuse the GDPR to hinder trade unions in their work.
Aída Ponce Del Castillo, Senior Researcher at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and GDPR expert, identified a number of access points that are particularly relevant for the daily work of workers’ representatives. The underlying message is: The GDPR is here to benefit the worker – but it needs to be effectively exercised by workers and their representatives!
- Ask about your personal data! As employers must give individuals easily understandable information on how they collect and what they do with workers’ data, this can be the first step to concrete action.
- Your HR data is often sensitive personal information! Employers must process it in a concise, transparent way and inform the worker about this, using clear and plain language.
- Do not sign “consent forms”! Due to the relationship of subordination between employers and workers, the consent of workers is not a valid legal basis to collect and process their data.
- Ask for the rectification of your data! Quite often, data collected about workers is invalid or incomplete. Workers have the right to have this rectified. This is particularly relevant when AI systems are used to monitor or evaluate workers or make predictions about them
- Ask questions about automated-decisions! If artificial intelligence is used at the workplace, the GDPR has put in place safeguards to protect workers against the risk that a potentially damaging automated-decision is made without human intervention.
The workshop participants agreed that these points need to be embedded in a trade union strategy, which can become an important bargaining tool. IndustriAll Europe will develop a comprehensive tool box with concrete examples and guiding questions on how to make the best use of the GDPR.
Isabelle Barthès, industriAll Europe Deputy General Secretary:
“The discussions have shown that the GDPR is too often seen as an obstacle rather than an opportunity for workers and their representatives. Together with our members, we will develop ambitious trade union strategies for data protection. “More and more systems using artificial intelligence are found in our sectors. These systems are often processing workers’ personal data. Workers’ representatives need to make sure that workers’ data is protected and that the appropriate safeguards are implemented.”
We would like to thank the Competence Center - Future of Work and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung for the financial support of this project.
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