Trade unions in Europe negotiate on telework
This article by Andrew Bibby, in a slightly different form, was first published in Teleworker magazine, 2001
Trade unions in Europe have been negotiating agreements and codes of practice for teleworking with employers associations, under the framework of the European Unions social partnership structures.
In January 2001, telework guidelines were formally agreed for telecoms companies, whilst a few weeks later a similar agreement was struck for the commerce sector. In both cases, negotiations were between employer associations and the relevant section of the trade union organisation Union Network International (UNI). Further information from www.union-network.org.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is also currently discussing telework with the two European employers bodies UNICE (to which the CBI is affiliated) and CEEP. These deliberations follow a move last summer by the European Commission, as part of wider initiative to modernise and improve employment relations, to focus both on telework and on economically dependent workers, those who whilst notionally self-employed actually rely on a single source of income. In March this year UNICE announced that it was happy to conclude an agreement on telework, though the employers and trade union sides are still discussing the extent to which such an agreement should be legally binding.
Meanwhile the International Labour Organisation, the Geneva-based tripartite UN body which links governments, employers and unions, has itself taken a close look at telework. A recent publication, the High Road to Teleworking, calls for the development of good practice when telework is introduced, to ensure that both employers and individual workers benefit. The High Road to Teleworking, which includes examples of telework implementation from around the world, is currently only available on the web, at www.ilo.org/safework/telework .
In recent years, trade unions in individual countries across Europe have also been actively engaged in negotiating arrangements for teleworking. The most comprehensive database of such collective agreements, codes of practice and guidelines was collected last year by the ETUC-led project Euro-Telework. The database is accessible at www.euro-telework.org .
Interestingly, one of the telework collective agreements which can be consulted on the Euro-Telework website is that signed last year between a trade union and its own employees. The German post and telecoms union DPG (now merged into the giant German trade union ver.di) agreed last year that its staff could practise telework. According to the DPG, the move was designed both to improve the service delivered to members and to improve members of staffs own employment conditions.
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