Employers abandon talks
Negotiations on telework/right-to-disconnect end without agreement.
On 28 June 2022, the EU cross-industry social partners published their joint work programme of activities for 2022-2024, with the main activity being the negotiation on Telework and the Right to disconnect: A review and update of the 2002 autonomous agreement on Telework to be put forward for adoption in the form of a legally binding directive. As a recognised social partner and member of the workers negotiation team, we welcomed the initiative, which provided tangible benefits for employees and employers alike.
We are, however, astounded by the contempt shown by BusinessEurope and SME United to social partners, the European Commission, and the workers who make their members businesses operate, seen through their unwillingness to move the legislative initiative forward through social dialogue. This culminated in both parties walking out of negotiations on November 9th, de facto ending the process entirely.
No explanation was provided to the negotiation team as to why both parties could not ballot their members on the final compromised text.
Negotiations on this file have been ongoing for more than a year, including a fact-finding seminar on the 22nd of September 2022, and 15 plenary negotiation meetings from October 2022 to November 2023, not including the final negotiation.
Added to these plenaries are drafting group and preparatory meetings, with an incredible volume of work done outside of the above meeting dates. Only at this point have employer groups made clear, against the wishes of many of their members, that they will walk away from negotiations.
We call on the European Commission to initiate legislation on telework and the right to disconnect, following the decision by BusinessEurope and SME United to walk away from negotiations.
“If we cannot negotiate in good faith, then the Commission must intervene to propose legislation.
While we are disappointed in the direction taken by our counterparts, the need for binding measures on telework and the right to disconnect is of paramount importance to Europe’s professionals and managers” - Eurocadres President Nayla Glaise
Reacting immediately after the walkout, Eurocadres President Nayla Glaise stated:
“Our role as trade unionists is to secure the protection of workers that is needed throughout Europe. While we as social partners had hoped to be successful in this process, our need to deliver for workers supersedes this negotiation.
Some employers groups have severely delayed the process of negotiation, leaving us minimal time before the elections to finalise a text with the existing Commission college, despite their support and ambition for this process.
Today’s confirmation of the decision to walk away from negotiations means the Commission must intervene to propose legislation.
While we are disappointed in the direction taken by our counterparts, the need for binding measures on telework and the right to disconnect is more pressing than ever before in a rapidly evolving working world. Professionals and manages are often at risk with a lack of binding protection, excessive working hours, and changing working practices”.
Our demands for this directive will include some of the negotiated principles, including guarantees on equal treatment and non-discrimination between workers at the employers’ premises and teleworkers. In addition, we need safeguards on the voluntary aspect of telework, while ensuring the right to disconnect is effectively applied to all workers, requiring employers to involve unions through collective bargaining and to put in place measures to ensure that workers can exercise this right.
Such measures should be commonplace in modern workplaces, and we will continue to work with the European Commission to ensure these rights are enshrined in European law.