Processing of Employee Data

Increasing customisation and servitisation of manufacturing, as well as the pursuit of more efficiency in OHS and human resource management, can come at the price of the collection and processing of large amounts of data, including data about individual workers (e.g., work presence and absence, rate of task completion, physical information such as heart rate and blood pressure, etc.). These data can 11 also be used to automate and fasten decision-making processes and assessment of work performances. Serious concerns thus emerge not only about individual privacy and protection of personal data but also equality, transparency, and lawfulness of data processing, algorithmic decisionmaking and evaluation.

To deal with this challenge, workers’ reps should deepen their knowledge on privacy regulation and data protection, possibly also thanks to the support of external experts and ask for greater involvement in decision-making processes concerning the collection and analysis of  data. In  this  regard,  the  approach of 

‘negotiating the algorithm’ is being advocated at the international level to encourage workers’ representatives to bargain over the collection of data, the ways of their use and the purposes pursued. The goal of collective bargaining in this field should not merely be the preservation of workers’ privacy against attempts to monitor work, but also greater worker participation in decision-making processes that are increasingly penetrated by data and their possible opaque use.

The Direct Involvement of Italian Workers in the Determination and Analysis of Data They Themselves Generate 

In Nuovo Pignone, an Italian company of the group General Electric Oil & Gas, every work station is equipped with a panel where the individual worker has to insert the information related to possible malfunction. When this occurs, the system generates an alert with a work order directed to the work team which is in charge of the resolution of possible problems. It is important to underline that before the installation of this device, workers and their representatives succeeded in engaging in a dialogue with management and contributed to the definition of the specific information to be inserted in the panel. Another relevant case in this field is represented by the 2018 collective agreement signed at Partesa (a company operating in the retail sector), which envisages the installation of an application of safe driving in the smartphones provided to the personnel, with the aim of tracking and then improving driving behaviours of employees in the exercise of their duties. As stated in the agreement, feedbacks on individual driving behaviours are provided to the single workers by the app. However, only aggregated driving behaviours (of min. 10 people) shall be collected; they are then returned to the groups of drivers and analyzed in the ‘safety’ meetings, held in each department, with the aim to highlight the significant risks while driving a vehicle and adopt more conscious and less dangerous driving styles.

Negotiating the Introduction of Industry 4.0-Related Technologies in German Companies

In the metalworking sector in Germany, there are works agreements signed at group level and aimed at laying down guidelines for works councils at the establishment level to negotiate over the introduction of new technologies. The Bosch Rexroth agreement of 2016 represents an example, envisaging pilot phases during which works councils can assess the effect of Industry 4.0 solutions on workers (e.g., in terms of individual privacy, health and safety, job content, etc.) and propose changes. Employees themselves are involved since the beginning in the design and introduction of new technological devices and allowed to provide suggestions for a better and more sustainable integration of technologies in the workplace; they are also entitled to ask for an interview with their supervisors about the opportunities for their career development in the light of technological and organisational innovation. By and large, these agreements are not limited to restricting the collection, access, processing and storage of data, since they tackle holistically all the various issues raised by the installation of new technological equipment.

From Germany, an Example of Participated and Shared Design of Digital
Production Tools

A very proactive (rather than merely protective) role played by IG Metall in the field of digital transformation regarded, from 2014 to 2016, its contribution to the design of ‘APPsist’, a smart assistance system used in production and aimed at supporting shop floor workers in their activities and allowing managers to flexibly use their employees for the execution of different tasks to the advantage of efficiency and quality standards. The software solution provides a context-sensitive assistance and knowledge system that can be expanded by the integration of augmented and virtual reality technologies. The development of ‘APPsist’ was enabled by a multi-stakeholder partnership, involving not only research centres and universities but also trade unions and employers’ associations, and financed by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. The involvement of IG Metall in the project permitted the union to know from the beginning, even before its application in companies, the functioning of the system, the data it needs and how they are processed. 

Further information at https://edtec.dfki.de/en/projekt/appsist/.