Digitalisation creating new professional and managerial staff profiles in the new world of work
The Eurocadres adopted a position on digitalisation at its Executive Committee meeting 17-18 November 2016.
The digital economy can be defined as a knowledge-based economy in an interconnected world where new sectors, products and services are created. It is characterised by a technological model where gadgets, apps and humans are interconnected and intelligent data treatment is applied to industry and society. Thereby marking a new era of economic and social development that goes beyond digital technologies. Digitalised information has become a strategic resource and the web the organiser of economy and society.
Some claim that digitalisation will result in a dramatic increase of unemployment, liberalisation of services, destruction of jobs, 24/7 availability, increased supervision and control, polarisation of jobs, dependency on servers and service providers, weakness of industrial relations and trade unions, widening income inequalities, stagnation of salaries, increase of competitiveness and the end of the European Social model and its implications.
Others consider that the digital economy offers new opportunities either in the service sectors or in industry where machinery will help workers in repetitive tasks. Creating a new productive model which will give rise to a fragmentation of work with zero marginal cost will be the driving force behind economic growth and creating employment. In this sense, digitalisation is already affecting all systems and productive sectors and not only does it make companies and economies more competitive, but also prepares workers and entrepreneurs to conquer new markets, since technological barriers are eliminated. Digitalisation is shaping industry, services and markets.
Effects of the new world of work in the work of professionals and managers
The accelerated development of new areas of technological endeavour has marked a turning point. Although technology has resulted in a shift in the boundaries between human and machine capabilities, it would be premature to conclude that human labour will be soon replaced by machines. Instead we should look at its possibilities.
Digitalisation is changing work as we know it across sectors and will become both an opportunity and a challenge.
It might release workers from some repetitive tasks; make work more agile, more cooperative. It might shape a new world of work with different, more and new types of jobs which will require more highly skilled professionals who will, at the same time, require new forms of training to be able to face all the changes and requirements that the jobs will demand from them.
On the other hand, the global effects on the quality of employment, working conditions, forms of work, are difficult to evaluate precisely.
The new world of work: new jobs, new working conditions, new trade union strategies
Digitalisation is not a new phenomenon, but it has reached a tipping point: the combination between big data and robotics heralds a new world of work.
Trade unions face many challenges in a new world of work where globalisation, digitalisation and neoliberal policies will affect sectors where professionals and managers are a majority. It is necessary for a smooth and inclusive transition towards a digital era to take place for society, industry and workers, specifically professionals and managers, to benefit from the opportunities while minimising the risks.
While we should obtain the maximum benefit from digital technology and recall that human beings are responsible for making decisions whereas machines execute them –their role cannot be interchanged, although some are ready to make decisions that far.
The growing collaborative economy may create jobs for professional and managerial staff as they carry out a large part of work on digital platforms. At the same time, they must take responsibility with regards to all the legal, professional and social aspects implied therein. The new jobs will go hand in hand with technological innovations and will shape a new world of work where professionals and managers will need to have their rights protected in an uncertain labour framework where an employment relationship might not even exist.
Eurocadres is aware of the meaning of globalisation, technology and demography which are the three main concepts that have changed the way we understand the world of work nowadays and is anticipating to the changes accordingly.
Eurocadres is aware that many of the jobs performed by professionals and managers can be offshored outside Europe. Salaries and costs should not downgrade the working conditions of professionals and managers and Eurocadres therefore cooperates with European trade union federations and national trade unions that are engaged in working with multinationals and in development cooperation that builds trade union capacity outside Europe.
Eurocadres is proactive in defending the right of professionals and managers to a fair work-life balance; to eliminate the gender gap; and to fight against risks to health and safety, including psychosocial risks, that result from an increased digitalised world of work.
New work contracts arising from the digital jobs could ideally provide a framework for a more flexible management of working hours that would allow for a rational work-life balance. Professional and managerial staff are faced with increasingly high and beyond the limit workloads, creating stress and anxiety.
Therefore, Eurocadres calls for adopting measures that protect employees’ health and safety by introducing the right to disconnect. It should also be made clear that video surveillance or geolocation should ensure better security in sensitive contexts, but should not be used for monitoring purposes of employees.
Data collection has become a business for many companies, also for controlling employees. Eurocadres calls for EU legislation to protect citizens’ rights and employee’s private life by protecting their personal data which should be limited to own legitimate interest and only if there is a previous consent.
Being aware that many professions will lose job positions, whereas new ones will grow, and that many of these new jobs will require a different set of skills, Eurocadres defends ongoing training programs for professionals and managers so that they can adapt to a new labour market where different skills will be required to avoid the digital breach. We should support their right to upskill their competences and digital skills. While digital skills, mentioned in the Commission Strategy for a Digital Single Market, are essential, the lack of them will have a vast effect on employment.
With an uneven distribution of digital skills there is also a clear . Many paths to increase participation of women in ICT should be encouraged. For example breaking down gender stereotypes with regards to engineering has proven to be fruitful when trade unions, sometimes together with employers and higher education providers, have worked on the issue.
Therefore, Eurocadres calls for a just and fair transition in digitalisation with strong systems to support and fund transition from one job to another. Training should not only be technical, but also address management so that they learn new working methods and their impact on employees and the company. As social partners, we address the issues through bipartite social dialogue with employers, and through tripartite social dialogue with state actors.
The recognition of qualifications has always been a priority for Eurocadres. Eurocadres also call for a validation of skills acquired through recognised qualifications and experience, which will benefit the company when relying on experienced and qualified employees.
Eurocadres believes that the challenge lies in addressing all issues related to social security, different forms of employment and contractual relationships, making sure employers take on their liability inherent to their condition as employers. It is important that EU addresses the issue, as in the Single Market Strategy, but there is a need to address it on global level too, for example in trade agreements.
As a trade union, new working configurations make it necessary for us to broaden our analysis to include new concepts and new ways of thinking about individuals and the collective. That is why the challenges likely to be posed by the digital economy transforming the world of work rank high on Eurocadres agenda.
We urge trade union organisations throughout Europe to, also in social dialogue with employers, take up the issue of digitalisation to find the opportunities and addressing the challenges.