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Workers' participation and digitalisation in ETUI's conference 'The World(s) of Work in Transition'

On 27 June - 29 June 2018 the ETUC and the ETUI for the third time organised a conference: 'The World(s) of Work in Transition'. The Conference took place in Brussels and brought together over 600 participants to discuss four Megatrends impacting working life nowadays. First, the free movement of capital, services and people is altering the allocation of jobs throughout the European internal market. Second, climate change and the energy transition are making many occupations obsolete, while at the same time creating new ‘green’ jobs in emerging sectors and industries. Third, the demographic transition is changing the structure of the labour force and challenging social security systems. Finally, the digitalisation of the economy is set to disrupt the processes of production, employment and work conditions on an unprecedented scale.

Among the topics discussed were also issues related to workers' participation. Two panels were devoted to discussing various aspects of workers information, consultation and participation:

1) Panel 3 - Company mobility fueled by digitalisation and Europeanisation: how can we shore up workers’ rights?

2) Panel 6 - The role of worker’s participation in addressing the digitalisation-driven Europeanisation strategies of MNCs.

Panel 3 addressed:

Digitalisation opens up new avenues for companies to move across borders; this mobility is already one of the driving forces behind the Europeanisation of the economy. This trend is further driven by decisions by the European Court of Justice to foster the free movement of capital and services, and the incremental revision of national systems of company law: all of these factors combine to make it much easier for companies to shift their regulatory "residency" through cross border mergers and cross-border transfers of their registered seat, thereby (at least partially) removing their governance systems from the legal framework of the country in which they were previously anchored. The landmark Commission proposal for an EU company mobility package, which was published at the end of April 2018, attempts to capture and regulate these developments, and is thus expected to exacerbate this trend even further. How can a high uniform standard be defined and implemented in the face of a baffling array of national specificities? How can we discourage company mobility on the basis of "low road" strategies seeking to avoid labor standards, workers’ participation rights, and appropriate taxation? The panel will discuss these question in detail, asessing the Commission’s Company Mobility Package, summarizing the contributions of a forthcoming book on Cross Border Mergers in the EU (Cremers and Vitols) and presenting initial findings from a new study on cross-border company mobility in the EU (Thomas Biermeyer and Marcus Meyer).

Panel 6 addressed:

New information and communication technologies are digitalising our economy in an unprecedented way. At the same time, the global competitive environment in Europe and beyond is getting tougher. Multi-National Corporations (MNC) currently shape and have been shaped by these two mega-trends of digitalisation and (de-)globalisation by following a two-step strategy of both stretching and bundling up. “Stretching” refers to companies' strategies to grow bigger, more digital, and more international through expansion, mergers, and acquisitions, both within and across industries, a process powered by an accelerated implementation of information and communication technology. The subsequent ‘bundling up’ processes manifest themselves in various trends of cross-border standardisation and centralisation. Both of these processes result in a profound shift in the arenas for workers’ participation. In an interactive framework framed by the results of an overview study about the key trends shaping MNC strategy, the panelists will share in an interactive format the specific perspectives on these challenges from the point of view of industry, companies and trade unions.

More information about the conference can be found on the etui.org website.

You can follow the Twitter feed from the conference at #etuWoW18

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