NFU Blog

Reflections from the ILO Global Dialogue forum on Telework

Last week, I had the pleasure of serving as the chairperson of the workers group at the International Labour Organization Global Dialogue Forum on Telework in Geneva. The purpose was to facilitate a tripartite discussion on the challenges and opportunities of teleworking for workers and employers in the ICTS and Financial services sectors.  During the three days of the ILO forum, we had the opportunity to discuss what the challenges and opportunities of telework are, what policies and practices that best addresses these challenges while at the same time maximizing the benefits and what future actions we would like to see from the ILO.

Telework is not a new phenomenon on the labour market. It first emerged after the oil crisis in the 1970’s as a way to work around the high cost of fuel and commute. Telework in its traditional form is neither new to the social partners. It has been discussed and negotiated in collective agreements for years, as-well as agreed upon by the European social partners in a Framework agreement on telework in 2002. A Joint declaration on telework was also signed by the European Social partners of the Insurance sector in 2015.

The Nordic countries are in many ways frontrunners when it comes to teleworking. Telework and other forms of mobile work are common here in the north, and have been for quite some time now. It is recognized as a beneficial form of work, giving further opportunities co-determination and flexibility both for managers and employees. Teleworkers are also protected through national law and their rights and conditions have been safeguarded by trade unions in collective agreements and framework agreements.

However, technological advances and digital transformation are now changing the world of work. Telework must therefore be seen in the light of today’s labour market, and the challenges and opportunities that lays ahead.  In the Nordic countries, telework is commonly defined as workers who work from a distance at a regular basis. With new forms of work and sectors emerging, challenges relating to work life balance could increase especially for mobile and platform workers those who work from a distance at irregular basis.

Also, the level of protection for teleworkers differs around the globe. In many countries, teleworking is still a new thing. Regulators’ and social partners have not yet come to terms of how to address the challenges of telework and at the same time enjoy the benefits. For trade unions this is an issue of solidarity. Workers must enjoy their fundamental rights, no matter when and where the work is being carried out. Teleworking has now become a global issue, due to technological advances that increases the possibilities of cross-border telework.

This is also why the ILO Global dialogue forum is important. By engaging in constructive and open dialogue with representatives from all over the world, best practices and experiences can be shared. For NFU, this means promoting the Nordic model as-well as underlining that the telework discussion must be focused on the new world of work and not limited to its traditional forms.

The immediate outcome of the forum is a 4-page document of consensus points addressing the challenges and opportunities of telework; including the opportunities of further co-determination regarding when and where to work and the challenges of ensuring a good work life balance as-well as occupational health and safety. Consensus was also reached on the way forward, encouraging the ILO to continue to build knowledge and share best practices by monitoring the development in the sectors and collect and analyse data on telework and new forms of work. Also, dialogue between the social partners will continue to be key to address the challenges and opportunities of telework.

It is certainly never easy to reach a consensus with so many voices to be heard, but as proven at the Global dialogue forum, it is possible. It is a signal at the global level that workers, employers and governments are committed to ensure that teleworking benefits all. We might not agree on everything, but we are still willing to be constructive and exchange views with the aim of reaching an agreement. Kind of like the Nordic way of doing things, right?

Annika Stenström

Policy Advisor
Phone: +46 704 147 770
Twitter: @AnnikaStenstrm

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