Slovak Republic: KOZ SR Conference ’The future of work in the 21st century’

The Confederation of Trade Unions of the Slovak Republic (KOZ SR) has organized a conference: The future of work in the 21st century yesterday (4.5.2023) and invited the professional public, experts, trade unionists and representatives of the academia to participate. Monika Uhlerová, President of KOZ SR, and Slavka Eley, Head of the Management and Coordination Department of the European Labour Authority, delivered their keynote speeches in person. The attendees were addressed by Esther Lynch, Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation, and Oliver Röpke, President of the European Economic and Social Committee, via a video message.

The title and the main theme of the conference – The Future of Work in the 21st Century – is both topical and urgent. The labour market has developed so rapidly in recent years that our response should be appropriately prompt. Monika Uhlerová, President of KOZ SR, said that "current technological trends, consisting in particular in the increasing degree of automation, robotization, digitalization, artificial intelligence, as well as climate change and demographic development, pose many serious questions for the world of work". These changes are already happening and will be the norm within a few years. With new technologies, new professions and jobs are expected to emerge that will be fully automated. However, other jobs will disappear and, according to socio-economic analysts, this will especially apply to low-skilled and low-wage positions.

Esther Lynch, Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), noted that "we are constantly trying to anticipate and shape the future of work as trade unionists at national, regional, European and company level". But with innovation comes uncertainty.

Experts drew attention to so-called digital platforms, which have seen a significant upswing in recent years. These include delivery services, taxi services or cleaning services. Many of these platforms, according to Esther Lynch, "exploit workers, deny them their right to be recognized as employees and pretend that they are self-employed". She added that the platforms use algorithmic management, with the aim of controlling the worker while they are working. These are all pitfalls that we must stop, according to the ETUC.

Solutions are already emerging on the European level. While the platform economy creates opportunities for businesses and workers, it also raises serious concerns about working conditions, said Oliver Röpke, President of the European Economic and Social Committee. He also pointed out that this is also why "we advocated for stronger information and consultation rights and a universal right to collective bargaining for all platform workers, regardless of their status".

Slavka Eley, Head of Management and Coordination at the European Labour Authority, noted that we face four questions in the labour market and these will shape our future: What will work consist of? Who will work? How will he or she work? Where will he or she work?

In their speeches, the representatives of organizations and experts mentioned other challenges, problems and pitfalls, such as low wages, lack of collective agreements or labour barriers. That is why, according to KOZ SR President Monika Uhlerová, trade unions should raise issues related to work, create pressure on political representatives, demand solutions and shape public policies to improve the lives of people in Slovakia and all over the world.

Pictures from the conference

KOZ SR information