Youth Digitalisation Taskforce Workshop

21-22 September, PERC in cooperation with PERC Youth Committee, FES and FGTB held a workshop on digitalisation and its implications for young workers. Meeting was organized in Belgrade, Serbia. This workshop was an integral part of PERC Youth Committee workplan agreed during the PERC Youth Conference in Istanbul in October of 2022.

The meeting gathered young trade union activists from PERC affiliates. Participants had a chance to get information from a number of experts and share own experience and debate on the national practices on digital platforms both in terms of legal frameworks and organising strategies.

This workshop had a focus and different aspects of digitalization, platform work, algorithms, standards setting, policies etc. Even before the COVID crisis, young workers had very slim chances of getting a “stable” employment for years, with levels of youth unemployment and underemployment much higher than for other age groups. With the spread of the new precariousness of the digital era, many young people face little or no choice but to start in (and to be trapped into) platform work.
Conventional union strategies fall short of handling such situations. At the same time, the digital era also creates opportunities for new means of organising workers. There are cases of young workers self-organising within platform operators in big cities of Europe. These examples need to be explored and taken on board in trade union youth organising and empowerment work.

Inga Sabanova, Policy Officer, FES Competence Centre on the Future of Work talked about new technologies at workplace and reorganization of work with example of studies done in changes in construction and woodwork sectors and how digitalization of this sector could change different aspects of work. Agnieszka Piasna, senior researcher from ETUI presented how algorithmic management changes the temporalities of work and what strategies are already used by the companies to fragment working time and individualise work, blurring work non-work time and possibilities and threats going forward.

Colleagues from FGTB (Belgium) Hugues Ghenne and Jotte Vandenabeele from legal and youth departments respectively talked about recently adopted law – «Labour Deal Act» of 3 October 2022 (applicable since January 2023), that is quite important for platform workers and presumes work relations and problems with general criteria. Maison des Livreurs – initiative that FGTB Youth is a part of - is an open office where delivery drivers working in Brussels can get assistance, talk about accruing issues and have a place to plan actions and campaigns.

Maria Tsirantonaki, policy officer ITUC Equality department, and Monika Tepfer from ITUC Legal presented to participants structure how standard setting in ILO is arranged in preparation for 2025 discussion on platform work. They explained ITUC work: involvement of member organisations, timelines towards general discussion, what has to be done, when questionnaires are out and Governments send their reports, what are the options to shadow report and how ITUC can support member organisations and vice versa to work in building up strategies and well informed work.

While Todd Brogan from the ITUC Organising Academy offered an overview of challenges and practices to organise self-employed workers and those in non-standard employment in the digital economy with the examples of collective actions. Lucy Susova, Advisor, ETUC explained changes since October where EU directive of platform work is, where are concerns for ETUC and other different initiatives.

Branka Andjelkovic and Tanja Jakobi from Public Policy Research Centre, Serbia presented their initiative Gigmetar with goal to provide an online gig economy equivalent to conventional labour market statistics in Western Balkans. Gigmetar™ monitors the activities and characteristics of gig workers from Serbia and surrounding countries. It can be used to monitor online labour market, make comparisons, monitor developments of digital labour market and help to define future policies.

PERC Youth committee will take up discussion points and outcomes of the workshop into their planning and future activities.