TUAC as one of the stakeholder groups to the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy organised a Trade Union Forum on “Sustainable & Inclusive Innovation: Quality Jobs and Skills in the Digital Economy” in Cancun, Mexico.
Discussions at the Forum amongst over 60 trade union representatives and with the OECD, the technical community, civil society and governments ranged from regulatory models for managing technological change, innovation strategies to bridge digital divides and create fair transition strategies for jobs in sectors prone to automation and digital diffusion, and employment conditions in the online platform economy. At the ministerial meeting, union representatives intervened at the opening plenary and sessions on Innovation Policies, Internet Of Things, Internet Openness, Jobs and Skills. Based on the TUAC Key Priorities issued ahead of the Ministerial including the call to develop an “Action Plan for Quality Jobs in the Digital Economy”, unions raised the following challenges during the Ministerial:
- An open internet is important but it needs to have standards on security risks and data cross-border flows that need to be developed on a global level by a multi-stakeholder process.
- Successful innovation policies can only work when they remove “silos” of industrial, economic, innovation and digital, employment and skills policies in an effective way, while consulting with social partners at the international, national and regional levels.
- “Internet of Things” and other new digital technologies bring significant opportunities for more productivity and well-being, but they must be managed to avoid the misuse of data, concentration of market power and large-scale disruptions of economic sectors, and thus jobs.
- Fair value sharing in the digital economy can only be achieved if emerging business models are subject to competition regulation, do not use regulatory loopholes for tax evasion and build on long-term investment models that do not put pressure on profit margins and do not create financial risks.
- Public investment need to be increased to spread broadband access, knowledge based capital and ensure skills provision for all – especially vulnerable groups and workers in sectors that are being increasingly disrupted – and bring financial markets into investing in innovation instead of speculation.
- Job creation opportunities through digitisation need to be harnessed, while disruptive effects on some economic sectors and occupational tasks need to be anticipated and challenged by targeted on-the-job training to prevent displacements, and a fair transition framework for others built on investment targets, active labour market measures and workers’ rights.
- The benefits of connected systems and networks need to be recognised while at the same time preventing disruptions to work-life-balance and privacy, especially in mobile work and in view of workplace data.
- Any non-standard employment conditions and regulatory arbitrage coming from certain business models in the digital economy, and specifically in on-demand and crowd work, should be eliminated and be subject to existing labour laws and regulatory frameworks to ensure employment relationships including the right to organise, social protection, OHS and decent wages for workers, and to apply the same criteria to online job platforms as to any other employment agencies.
The Ministerial adopted a declaration (http://www.oecd.org/sti/ieconomy/Digital-Economy-Ministerial-Declaration-2016.pdf) giving the OECD a further mandate to address these issues. The TUAC will continue to engage our affiliates and partners in the follow up to this work.
Trade Unions at the meeting made it clear: “we are not technological change pessimists, we are not technological enthusiasts, we are techno-pragmatists” and in turn insisting on effective regulation and policy solution to increase transparency, accountability and inclusivity in the digital economy.