The European Commission has this week published new rules to ensure stronger enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in cross-border cases. In light of this, industriAll European Trade Union publishes its GDPR Toolbox for Trade Unionists, that explains how unions can make the best use of the rules to protect workers’ private data and to shield them against surveillance.

Since GDPR came into force in 2018, it has proven its value in protecting citizens’ private data within the European Union. In the past five years, almost €4 billion in fines have been imposed against companies that breach GDPR rules. The fines have been issued against big tech companies like Meta, with cases involving personal data from social media users; but also in cases concerning the protection of workers, like the ruling against H&M on workers’ surveillance.

The European Commission’s new rules aim to speed up cross-border cases like the ones against Meta, Google and Amazon, by facilitating the sharing of information at an earlier stage between different national data protection authorities and, in some cases, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB).

Activists and experts, as well as a number of data protection agencies, have criticised the enforcement of the GDPR’s system for its inefficiencies. They blame the system, highlighting that it gives the Irish and the Luxembourgish privacy authority the reign over cases against big tech companies.

IndustriAll Europe’s GDPR toolbox summarises key points and information on GDPR that trade unionists need to know. It includes the law’s main provisions, the impact on trade union work and union strategies that can be used to defend members’ rights as they pertain to personal data.

GDPR applies to both trade unions and employers, as both are entities that process data. For trade unions, it is essential to understand how to use GDPR to:

•    respect the Regulation when processing members’ data
•    ensure that workers’ data is protected at the workplace and employers do not collect and process workers’ private data
•    push back against employers who erroneously use GDPR to undermine union activities

Our GDPR Toolbox for Trade Unionists explains which articles of the GDPR can be used in collective bargaining negotiations to secure trade unions’ right to access workers’ data, to contact members and potential members, as well as to protect workers’ data.

Some concrete examples of sectoral agreements which guarantee the right to digital access can be found in industriAll Europe’s collective bargaining database.

Isabelle Barthès, industriAll Europe’s Deputy General Secretary says:

“We are delighted to present our ‘GDPR Toolbox for Trade Unionists’, which gives concrete practical support to our members to understand GDPR and to use the rules in collective bargaining negotiations. Many of our members are reporting misuse of GDPR, with employers using the rules as an excuse to prevent trade unions from contacting workers. This guide is a concrete tool to help unions push back against this form of union busting.”

IndustriAll Europe's GDPR Toolbox