The age of globalisation and digitalisation poses major challenges to society in general and to workers and trade unions in particular. Digital technologies offer opportunities for job creation as well as new empowered and self-determined ways of working. They also provide work related challenges: technological unemployment, digitally accelerated restructuring and worldwide relocation of work, fragmentation of workforces through mobile and hyperflexible work, new forms of low-paid and precarious work on platforms, increased regimentation of work and digital control through data as an instrument of management power. Trade unions play a crucial role in positively influencing this process to ensure that this era is innovative and sustainable for workers and society as a whole and that its benefits and opportunities are fairly and evenly distributed. Striving to contribute to the common good, trade unions stand up for high-quality jobs and employment across the services sector. Skilled workforces are indispensable to realise the potential benefits of digitalisation.

UNI Europa addressed these challenges in our project ‘Shaping Industrial Relations in a Digitalising Services Industry – Challenges and Opportunities for Social Partners’. It was a joint project between UNI Europa and ‘ZSI – Centre for Social Innovation’. This project was one of UNI Europa’s top priorities for 2017-2018 and a key element in developing our political platform on the future world of work in services sectors. By identifying and analysing change factors and exploring new approaches for social partners to the challenges linked to maintaining effective industrial relations systems in a digitalising services industry, we strive to provide policy advice for trade unions, social partners and policymakers. Key tools for trade unions to influence the institutional frameworks for change are industrial relations, collective bargaining, social dialogue and capacity building for social partners.

The project focused on three thematic clusters, namely 1) services markets, 2) labour markets, and 3) work organisation and company strategies. In the framework of these three clusters, topics on worker representation and collective bargaining, an employment relationship 4.0 and skills and (re)training opportunities were discussed in three workshops that took place in Brussels, Berlin and Stockholm. The findings and outcomes were presented in the mid-term project conference in Brussels in May 2018, aiming to contribute to UNI Europa’s political platform on industrial relations in a digitalising services industry. The findings and outcomes of the research conducted by ZSI, the project workshop and conference as well as political activities from relevant UNI Europa sectors should serve as a basis for internal UNI Europa discussions as well as exchanges with academics and relevant social partners. First discussion fora were provided in the framework of two reflection workshops that were organised in the autumn of 2018 in Vienna and Brussels and which round off the project.