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2 Equity, diversity, and inclusion
This theme is concerned with how unions can bargain for language that ensures that digitalisation contributes to (and does not undermine) equity, diversity and inclusion at work.
Digitalisation can help to overcome discrimination by improving access to jobs and opportunities or it can exacerbate it by entrenching workplace inequality. The risks of contributing to inequity are particularly acute when technologies are built using biased data.
Discrimination and bias are context-specific and vary geographically, but unions should consider taking proactive steps to ensure that female workers; workers belonging to ethnic, racial or religious minority groups; workers belonging to lower castes, disabled workers, and sex and gender diverse workers are treated equitably. These groups have historically faced high levels of discrimination and bias in the labour market and at work, and in some regions are more often employed in temporary or non-standard employment.
Including language in collective agreements that promotes equal opportunities and inclusion, and prohibits discrimination is important. Collective bargaining agreements should address, at minimum, the following issues:
This sub-theme is concerned with how collective bargaining can be used to promote equity and diversity in the workplace.
Technology can exacerbate inequalities in the workplace. There is an over-representation of women in fields like health and social care, and in administrative jobs. These jobs are prone to automation and digital innovation. Meanwhile, demand for IT jobs is rapidly increasing and these jobs are disproportionately held by men. Not only does this lead to gendered occupational segregation, but it can also lead to pay disparities.
Trade unions can use collective bargaining to help historically marginalised workers access training opportunities in tech-related fields. They can also promote the use of digital workplace configurations, like telework, to foster workplace inclusion.
Trade unions in action: Ensuring that everyone benefits from digitalisation
The language below comes from Europe, where the Trade Union's National and European Delegation and the European Public Administration Employers (EPSU/TUNED) developed language that aims to reduce inequalities and allow all workers to benefit from digitalisation.
Digitalisation should be framed as an opportunity to enhance work-life balance of both women and men whose needs will differ throughout their life depending on several factors, such as their care responsibilities, economic situation, career or educational changes. Therefore, both digitalisation and work-life balance measures have to be gender-sensitive and equality proofed allowing for positive actions so that employers are aware of the options digitalisation can offer to advance gender equality at the workplace both in terms of pay and new job opportunities. As with other HR issues, the earlier the gender equality aspects of a digitalisation process are considered, the better and more effective the responses can be. The following actions need to be considered :
Developing a Gender Action Plan with specific targets and yearly actions to close the gender and possibly grade gap in employees benefiting from the opportunities of digitalisation.
Encouraging equal take up of possibilities for flexible working patterns by men and women in order to tackle the unequal distribution of care duties between women and men.
Involving Equality Officers in the design and implementation of digitalisation processes.
Trade unions in action: Bargaining for disability inclusion
Unions may consider including specific language to address distinct equity-seeking groups - like disabled workers. Below is an example of a Protocol developed by Italy's Federazione Energia, Moda, Chimica ed Affini del la CISL (FEMCA CISL), which permits disabled workers and those with health impairments to work from home.
Employees can be authorized by the employer to perform up to 100 percent of their work [...] from home if [...] they are in possession of the recognition of a disability of at least [...] severity. […] As a rule, the administration guarantees disabled or health impaired employees any solution suitable for ensuring the performance of activities in a mobile manner, namely by using various tasks included in the same category or classification area as defined by the applicable [...], as well as by providing specific vocational training.
Federazione Energia, Moda, Chimica ed Affini della CISL
Collective Bargaining Agreement
This sub-theme is concerned with how collective bargaining can be used to stop discrimination and bias.
Bias is embedded in algorithmic systems, and its presence poses further threats to equality and diversity in the workplace. Algorithms in HR software may influence hiring, firing and promotion decisions while reflecting the values of the software designers, rather than the needs and interests of software users or of workers. If discrimination is embedded in technology design, it can perpetuate unequal outcomes. Unions need to be aware of the risks and must be ready to counteract them. This can be achieved by bargaining for language that prohibits discrimination.
Trade unions in action: Referencing existing legislation
Collective agreements can reference existing legislation that prohibits discrimination. Below, UK union Unite offers model language that acknowledges the risks presented by new technologies and commits to eliminating discrimination. This language recognizes that all job functions have implications for equality.
It is agreed that the Employer will ensure that New Technology does not discriminate in any area of employment and accepts its responsibilities to comply with the Equality Act 2010 and all other relevant legislation. It is recognised that specific issues including new ways of working and working time, job design, job evaluation, access to training, retraining and progression, can all have equality implications.
Additional reading on Theme 2: Equity, diversity and inclusion:
EIGE 2018: Gender equality and digitalisation in the European Union. European Institute for Gender Equality. Available in multilingual version at: https://eige.europa.eu/publications/gender-equality-and-digitalisation-european-union.
TUNED/EUPAE (2017): Improving work-life balance: opportunities and risks coming from digitalization. Field Study, https://www.epsu.org/sites/default/files/article/files/SSDC%20NEA%20Field%20Study%20WLB%20-%20EN.pdf.
UNI Global 2017: Digitalization from a Gender Perspective. Available at: https://www.uniglobalunion.org/sites/default/files/imce/digitalization_-_en_3.pdf.
Colclough, Christina (2020): Workers rights: negotiating and co-governing digital systems at work. https://www.socialeurope.eu/workers-rights-negotiating-and-co-governing-digital-systems-at-work
TUC 2021: Technology Managing People. The worker experience. https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-11/Technology_Managing_People_Report_2020_AW_Optimised.pdf.
Holbourne, Zita (2018): Adverse Disproportionate Impacts of Digitalisation on black & minority ethnic workers, https://www.epsu.org/sites/default/files/article/files/Impact%20of%20digitalisation%20on%20BME%20workers%20EPSU%20June%2018%20-%20Zita%20Holbourne.pdf.