A framework agreement between the social partners should ensure job security and worker involvement are prioritized across the European Union.
By Esther Lynch – The announcement of jobs losses around Europe as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has become an almost daily occurrence, as all sectors struggle to cope with the impact of lockdown. Preliminary research indicates that restructuring job losses have doubled in the second quarter of 2020, compared with previous years. Some 60 million EU workers are at risk of unemployment as the consequences of the crisis play out.
Trade unions are at the forefront of efforts to protect workers’ livelihoods. At the end of June, the European Trade Union Confederation and the three major EU-level employers’ organizations—BusinessEurope, CEEP and SMEunited—signed an Autonomous Framework Agreement, to work together on the introduction of digitalisation in workplaces across Europe. In the context of Covid-19, the deal has much wider relevance, as it provides a blueprint for negotiating a ‘just transition’ and change in the world of work.
The priority is to encourage an approach that fully involves workers and their trade unions. This must apply to restructuring situations caused by the virus, as well as to planned change. The agreement sets out that, instead of making redundancies, employers need to look at other options for maintaining and investing in their workforces, creating new opportunities and enabling workers to adapt to change.
The agreement applies across the EU, covering both public and private sectors and all economic activities, including online platform workers. The right of trade unions to represent workers is recognized and the agreement specifies that, in preparing for negotiations, unions must be able to consult all employees and should have the facilities and information required to participate fully throughout.
The issues of digitization, restructuring and equipping different sectors to respond to the coronavirus crisis are all interlinked. The fact that so many workers have suddenly found themselves relying on digital technologies to carry out their tasks has created a step change in terms of work organization. One survey indicates that 74 per cent of companies expect some of their staff to continue working remotely in the long term. These workers must have full employee rights and representation, with no erosion of pay and working conditions. more>