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BEERG Newsletter - Unions: Inroads in tech industry?

As the tech industries continues to be hit by a wave of lay-offs, blindsiding employees who had only ever been used to expanding employment opportunities and expansive pay and perks packages, the question has been posed if the cutbacks will see these workers join unions in response. See this article from SocialEurope. 

In Europe, the answer is probably no, with workers more likely to push to establish works councils where they do not already exist. Works councils give them information and consultation rights around layoffs, but experience shows that works councils, or unions, rarely prevent layoffs from happening, but can influence the package on offer to those losing their jobs. 

There are also a number of upcoming pieces of EU legislation, such as the Directive on improving the working conditions of platform workers, and the Gender Pay Transparency Directive which will require the involvement of employees’ representatives in the use of algorithms in human resource decision making and, in the case of gender pay, the development of corrective plans where analysis show gaps of more than 5% between the pay of men and women. These laws could also give a boost to the establishment of works councils where they do not currently exist.

In the coming weeks we will publish a BEERG Perspective on what we see as the “third wave” of EU laws mandating employee information and consultation, following the first wave in the 1970s and the second wave in the late 80s and early 90s. We will also be exploring these issues in our upcoming Managing European Employee Relations in 2023, in April in Sitges, Barcelona. 

Meanwhile, a union campaign to demand that all government and public sector contracts only be awarded to companies that have collective bargaining agreement has won support from 160 members of the European Parliament. "Public contracts should not go to companies that seek a competitive advantage by suppressing workers' pay and driving poverty wages and substandard working conditions", says their joint statement.

For an interesting perspective on what is happen in collective bargaining in Germany, see this interview with the leader of the Germany union confederation, the DGB. 

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Authors: Tom Hayes

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