WHAT WE DO
New advances in digital technologies and the systematic application of automation to optimize production processes on a global scale (Industrie 4.0) have a strong impact on the organization of work and on the traditional system of industrial relations, which has historically viewed trade unions and collective bargaining as critical institutions for worker representation (Müller-Jentsch, 2008).
The literature on industrial relations and the public debate mostly analyze the effects of technological innovations (artificial intelligence, IoT, Big Data) on the labour market with reference to its potential to disruption of a number of jobs and to modify the required competencies (Osborne, 2017; IMF, 2018). Most of the researches focused on the recurrent dilemma on the effects of technology in terms of the balance between created jobs and destroyed jobs. The analyses made have produced ambiguous results (World Economic Forum, 2016, Frey & Osborne, 2016, Eichhorst et al., 2016, Ambrosetti House, 2017), proposing a polarization between the risk of expropriation of human work by robots (Brynjolfsson and McAfee, 2012) and a new humanism by technology (Levy, 2008).
However, the real question about the effects of technology on the labour market is more linked to a complex picture that brings together the demographic development, the structure and specialization of the reference markets, the endowment of tangible assets (ie infrastructures) and intangible assets (ie skills and knowledge), as well as institutional framework, in particular legal systems of regulation and protection of work (Arcidiacono et al., 2018). Much less attention has been paid to the effects of digitization on labour relations in connection with the emergence of the phenomenon that, in the American context (Katz and Kruger, 2017), is indicated using the umbrella concept of “contingent work”: “a general term for forms of employment tied to the completion of a specific task and, hence, of relatively short duration” (Barley, Bechky Milliken, 2017). In our project, the contingent work will include indicatively people who are paid according to work done (both online and offline) and the services/performance he/she offers, not based on the time spent.
The project set the following main objectives:
Assessing the phenomenon of contingent work and in particular slash workers in its different forms and analyzing its characteristics and dynamics in European countries;
Exploring public policies and the forms of collective action and representation of contingent workers and slash workers already explored by trade unions and by new forms of representation;
Promoting knowledge and practices exchange between contingent workers (including slash workers) and their representative;
Foster and test forms of social dialogue between the actors of the industrial relations system, developing new prototypes of industrial relations for contingent and slash workers;
Diffuse research results not only through seminars, workshops and publications but also via local experiments of social dialogue, involving organized interests and public actors.
The focus of this project is crucial because (Objective 1) the occasional employment relationships that characterize slash workers – which mostly develop on the platforms (Objective 2) their short duration and (Objective 3) the uncertain nature of the employment relationship can generate social inequalities. The weak institutional regulation that characterizes the contingent work generally involves a low protection.
The value added of the proposed project is the significant fieldwork involved, which includes a quantitative research based on European and national statistical data, a mapping of platform and country case studies, in order to gather original data and information on new features of the labour market and on relevant practices in terms of industrial relations of contingent and slash workers in order to build new prototypes for the representation of these workers.