A Seat at the Table: Negotiating Data Processing in the Workplace. A National Case Study and Comparative Insights
Forthcoming, A Special Issue of the Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal on "Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Labour Protection" guest-edited by Valerio De Stefano
23 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 13, 2019
It is already a common understanding that datafication is one of the most important trends in our society and, as a consequence, in the economic environment. Datafication and big data are not only the core of the two most debated new business and technological models - platform economy and Industry 4.0 (or smart manufacturing) - but have also permeated more traditional organizations, entering all their departments (marketing, production, sales, finance). In the latest years, datafication is becoming ever more a reality in work organization and human resource management, considerably impacting on the way work is organized, managed and performed. Stemming from this background, this paper wants to analyze the topic of data processing in the employment context focusing on the specific role that collective representation can play. Although there are some interesting antecedents in research regarding the role of workers’ representatives in this context, the topic has received very limited attention as far as the new wave of digitalization is concerned, and almost no interest in its double -- individual and collective -- dimension. By contrast, we believe that ongoing technological and organizational changes raise new challenges and open a new room for intervention for workers’ representatives. In this sense, they are expected not only to limit the quantity and fix the typologies of data collected and processed, against the risk of workers’ surveillance, but also to co-decide over purposes and procedures of data processing, for the self-determination and concrete participation of workers. Negotiating the algorithm, in our opinion, starts here. In order to achieve the above-mentioned purposes, a case study analysis is developed and focused on the Italian context. Firstly, we focus on the legal framework to shed light on the prerogatives and powers formally attributed to workers’ representatives in the field of data protection and workplace monitoring. Emphasis will be placed on the changes made by the so-called Jobs Act reform from September 2015. Secondly, we examine a set of 1,161 company-level collective agreements concluded in Italy between late September 2015 and 2018 to investigate the actual role played by labor representation in this field. Moreover, we provide some insights into other national contexts, with a view to comparing the results of our analysis with the negotiated outcomes achieved in other countries, in an attempt to better understand the institutional determinants of varieties of actors’ orientations and collective solutions.
Keywords: datafication, employment, trade unions, collective bargaining, data processing
JEL Classification: J5
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation