Gute Arbeit und Digitalisierung; Prozessanalysen und Gestaltungs-perspektiven für eine humane digitale Arbeitswelt

2015 – The German trade union for the service sector (ver.di) has released a paper on ‘good work and digitization’. In this paper various authors present analyses  and design perspectives for good digital work.

Do not digitalize first and then humanize subsequently

In the preface Lothar Schöder member of the union board, proposes the following notions.
The digital revolution may not – like the first industrial revolution  – lead to a long-term deterioration of prosperity and welfare for a large part of the population. Only after years of (union) fights  the majority of the population benefitted of the increased productivity: diminishing of working hours, higher wages and social security. That was mainly because legislation was enforced in respect of social security, labor law, law on coalition building and the right to negotiate for the trade unions and employee participation.
We cannot digitize first this time and then humanize subsequently.

Social innovation

History also teaches us that technical innovations  will only contribute to advancement in prosperity, welfare and working conditions if they are accompanied by social innovation.
The starting points for humanization of digitization that are available  are:

  • There is a kind of ‘infrastructure’  by that legislation and democratic rights;

  • There are already ideas (cited in this issue) about how existing legislation can be expanded or modified to meet  the new challenges;

  • The neo-liberal response namely ‘deregulation’  has not revealed the right answer;

  • The Federal Ministry of Labour has stated in a Green Paper ‘Arbeit 4.0’  that the project Industry 4.0 will become a success only if attention is paid to good work in all sectors. However the BDA rejects more regulation.

Design criteria
Just as previously the unions have developed answers to Taylorism, Fordism, and the functional device in the industry they must now design criteria for the entire digital economy.
As it is necessary to prevent workers being exposed to stress and pressure, to prevent  that social dislocation is created by globalization and that less protective labor conditions are introduced under the guise of self-management.
Digitalization should support human labor and not vice versa. Therefore it is necessary to develop the change from the bottom up. Digitization itself supplies the means; it offers many opportunities for employees to have more autonomy in their work.

Content of the paper
The contributions of several authors are divided into four parts.

The first part deals with the ver.di program, with contributions on:

  • The human dimension of digitization; prospects for trade union politics;

  • Participation in the world of digital work;

  • Employee Privacy;

  • The European dimension of digital work;

  • Insurance for freelancers.

The second part is titled: ‘From crowdsourcing to training strategies’ and contributions include:

  • Crowdsourcing and Crowd Work as new forms of labour;

  • Health & Safety policy with agile methods;

  • Social media in business. Challenges for employees and representatives;

  • Continuing education in the IT industry;

  • Quality of work  in the IT sector;

  • The collective labour agreement  and health management from IBM;

  • Digitization in healthcare;

  • Journalism and digitization.

The third part is a case: Amazon and contains contributions:

  • The case Amazon: work and buy in the online shop;

  • Employees be checked regularly! Digitization at Amazon;

  • Seasonal work – Excerpts from the book.

The fourth part contains several previous statements of the union::

  • Gute Arbeit in Zeiten des digitalen Umbruchs!  A union statement sept. 2014;

  • Gute Arbeit und Gute Dienstleistungen im digitalen Zeitalter. A joint statement by ver.di and the Federal Ministry of Economics;

  • Würde, Selbstbestimmung, Solidarität und Gute Arbeit in der digitalen Gesellschaft!

  • Speech by the President of ver.di in June 2015;

  • Nächste Schritte für Gute Arbeit in der digitalen Gesellschaft. Joint statement by ver.di and the Federal Ministry of Labour.


Gute Arbeit und Digitalisierung. Prozessanalysen und Gestaltungsperspektiven für eine humane digitale Arbeidswelt‘  Published by the ‚vereinte Dienstleistungs-gewerkschaft‘, (ver.diBereich Innovation und Gute Arbeit). Berlin, sept.2015.

The paper is attached.