European Labour Law Conference: Labour rights & the digital transition – 28-29 October 2021

28-29 October 2021, online and at the International Trade Union House, Brussels.
The event is organized by the ETUI in cooperation with the European Lawyers for Workers Network (ELW Network)

We are planning a hybrid event: participation is possible both in person and online.
Interpretation will be available in English, French, Italian, and German.

Download the draft programme

Registrations Link

The theme

The impact of digitalisation on society and the world of work is growing and will only become more pervasive. But the transformation is a multifaceted one. We are simultaneously witnessing the emergence of new business models, such as platform and gig work, and the expansion of digital marketplaces and service providers with extraordinary market power (such as Amazon). Both evolutions entail profound changes to certain industries and to labour relations. At the same time, the introduction of AI in the workplace presents new issues with regards to surveillance and health and safety. To top it all, digitalisation has allowed employers to claim that workers now enjoy greater autonomy and are thus less in need of strong employment protection.

In the context of these transformational changes, how can we ensure that the digital transition does not occur at the expense of workers’ rights and conditions?

This conference proposes a multidimensional discussion on the role of labour law in this area and seeks to identify initiatives that have been taken, or could be taken, on various fronts:
• EU policymaking: The von der Leyen Commission has made its intention clear to ensure that the digital transition takes place in a fair and just manner. Policymakers and experts will discuss the initiatives proposed by the European Commission and will assess their potential impact on the world of work.
• The normative aspect: The transformative impact of technology calls for a theoretical reflection on how labour law can be adapted without losing its protective and emancipatory function with respect to workers’ prerogatives. The panellists will present proposals on possible ways to ensure the relevance of labour law.
• Case law: A trend of rulings in favour of ‘digital’ workers is emerging in the European courts, especially in the area of the platform economy. Legal practitioners and expert observers will discuss what lessons policymakers can draw from the recent jurisprudence.
• Collective bargaining and trade unions: Digitalisation has accelerated changes in the distribution of bargaining power, leading to the emergence of companies with very strong market power as well as to the creation of many jobs that these companies consider to be in the sphere of ‘autonomous’ or ‘independent’ work. Representatives from the trade union world and experts in the field will explain the various challenges and opportunities for collective bargaining in this new world.


Thursday 28 October (from 13:30 till 17:30)
13:30 – 14:00
Nicola Countouris (Director of Research – ETUI)
Silvia Rainone (Researcher, ETUI and ELW)

14:00 – 15:30
Moderated by Silvia Rainone (Researcher, ETUI and ELW)

Digital transition in the EU recovery strategy, Maria Teresa Fábregas Fernandez (Director, Recovery &
Resilience Task Force, European Commission)
The EU proposal on AI regulation and its approach to workers’ right, Aida Ponce Del Castillo (Senior researcher, Foresight Unit,
Fairness and dignity in regulating EU platform workers, Leïla Chaibi (MEP, GUE/NGL)
Taming the market power of digital businesses – The Amazon case, Nick Rudikoff (Campaigns director, UNI Global)

15:30 – 16:00 Break 30’

16:00 – 17:30
Moderated by Aude Cefaliello (Researcher, ETUI)

Unveiling the subordination in the platform economy, Anna Ginès Fabrellas (Professor, ESADE)
Lessons from an anarchist perspective to the platform economy, Andrea Iossa (Senior lecturer, Kristianstad University)
Preventing discrimination in algorithmic decision-making, Miriam Kullmann (Assistant Professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Expanding the scope of collective bargaining: a paradigm shift, Silvia Rainone (Researcher, ETUI and ELW Network)

17:30 End of Day 1

Friday 29 October (from 10:00 till 13:30)

Thomas Schmidt (Lawyer, ELW Network and ELDH)

10:10– 11:30
Moderated by Ruediger Helm (Lawyer, ELW)

The Yodel case and its implications for platform workers’ rights, Lord John Hendy QC (Barrister, UK)
Defending collective rights of platform workers in courts, Carlo De Marchis (Lawyer, Italy)
The contribution of the GDPR to protect platform workers’ rights, Anton Ekker (Lawyer, The Netherlands)
Socializing digital work via the courts? Antonio Aloisi (Assistant Professor, IE Law School)

11:30 – 12:00 Break 30’

12:00 – 13:20
Moderated by Aline Hoffmann (Head of Unit, Europeanisation of Industrial relations, ETUI)

Protecting platform workers’ rights in the digital economy, Silvia Simoncini (National secretary NidiL Cgil)
Raising activism among platform workers, Martin Willems (United Freelancers, acv-csc)
Collective bargaining to address negative impact of labour market monopsony, Séverine Picard (Progressive Policies)
Unions’ strategy to contrast the market power of digital platform, Annika Flaten (Director Commerce, UNI Europa)

Ludovic Voet (ETUC, Confederal Secretary)

Tags: digital transition, labour rights