Labour law

Updates

A recently released report by the US organisation Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) concluded that the economic benefits that may be brought by the widespread adoption of autonomous driving technology might surpass common concerns related to labour market destabilisation and job dislocation. Job dislocation and contribution to unemployment might not be as severe as commonly suspected, as new jobs and other economic benefits would compensate for any expected labour market disruption.​ The report recognises that some groups might be more seriously affected by job dislocation than others, and recommends policymakers to fully support autonomous vehicle deployment while, in parallel, lay the groundwork for the requalification of the workforce.

A federal appeals court in the USA issued a decision saying that a regulation passed in 2015 by the city of Seattle to allow Uber and Lyft drives to unionise was not lawful. The decision was issued in a lawsuit brought by the US Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which claimed that the regulation was in breach of the antitrust law: if drivers negotiate over their pay, which is based on ride fares, they would be able to fix prices, and thus violate antitrust laws. A federal judge in Seattle initially ruled against the ICC, stating that the state of Washington had authorised cities to regulate the ride-hailing industry. But the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the Washington state laws allow municipalities to regulate rates that companies charge to passengers, but not the fees that drives pay the companies they work for. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the Seattle Court to reconsider it. Supporters of the Seattle regulation argue that allowing drivers to unionise would improve their working conditions, while the industry claims that the appeals court's decision 'will maintain the flexibility of drivers to choose when, where and for how long they drive'

The California Supreme Court issued a ruling that could make it more difficult for companies –  including those in the sharing economy – to classify their workers as independent contractors. In its decision, issued in a case involving the courier and delivery company, Dynamex, the court noted that, 'Although in some circumstances classification as an independent contractor may be advantageous to workers as well as to businesses, the risk that workers who should be treated as employees may be improperly misclassified as independent contractors is significant in light of the potentially substantial economic incentives that a business may have in mischaracterizing some workers as independent contractors...'. In this context, the court outlines a series of requirements that companies should meet to be able to classify their workers as individual contractors instead of employees: '(A) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact; (B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (C) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.' Commentators argue that this ruling would make it more difficult for companies like Uber and Lyft to argue that their workers are individual contractors.

Pages

It is frequently mentioned that the Internet is changing the way in which we work. ICTs have blurred the traditional routine of work, free time, and sleep (8+8+8 hours), especially in multinational corporation working environment. It is increasingly difficult to distinguish where work starts and where it ends. These changes in working patterns may require new labour legislation, addressing such issues as working hours, the protection of labour interests, and remuneration.

While this phenomenon requires broader elaboration, the following aspects are of direct relevance to Internet governance:

  • The Internet introduced a high level of temporary and short-term workers. The term ‘permatemp’ was coined for employees who are kept for long periods on regularly reviewed short-term contracts. This introduces a lower level of social protection of the workforce.
  • Teleworking is becoming increasingly relevant with the further development of telecommunications, especially with broadband access to the Internet.
  • Outsourcing to other countries in the ICT service sector, such as call centres and data processing units, is on the rise. A considerable number of these activities have already been transferred to low-cost countries, mainly in Asia and Latin America.

In the field of labour law, one important issue is the question of privacy in the workplace. Is an employer allowed to monitor employees’ use of the Internet (such as the content of e-mail messages or website access)? Jurisprudence is gradually developing in this field, with a variety of new solutions on offer.

In France, Portugal, and Great Britain, legal guidelines and a few cases have tended to restrict the surveillance of employee e-mail. The employer must provide prior notice of any monitoring activities. In Denmark, courts considered a case involving an employee’s dismissal for sending private e-mails and accessing a sexually oriented chat website. The court ruled that dismissal was not lawful since the employer did not have an Internet use policy in place banning the unofficial use of the Internet. Another rationale applied by the Danish court was the fact that the employee’s use of the Internet did not affect his working performance.

An additional point of concern arising with the ever-growing use of social networking is the delimitation between private and working life. Recent cases showed that employees behaviour and comments on social networking sites may address various topics, from workplace and co-workers to employer’s strategies and products, deemed as personal (and private) opinions, but which may considerably affect the image and reputation of companies and colleagues.

Labour law has traditionally been a national issue. However, globalisation in general and the Internet in particular have led to the internationalisation of labour issues. With an increasing number of individuals working for foreign entities and interacting with work teams on a global basis, an increasing need arises for appropriate international regulatory mechanisms. This aspect was recognised in the WSIS declaration, which, in paragraph 47, calls for the respect of all relevant international norms in the field of the ICT labour market.

Events

Actors

(ILO)

The International Labour Organization carries out activities dedicated to addressing social and labour issues

...

The International Labour Organization carries out activities dedicated to addressing social and labour issues in specific economic sectors, at national and international levels. One of these sectors is postal and telecommunication services (including the Internet), where the ILO works on assisting governments, employers, and workers to develop policies and programmes aimed at enhancing economic opportunities and improving working conditions. It pays particular attention to major trends in this sector (deregulation, privatisation, etc.) and how they affect the labour force. The organisation also explores aspects related to the opportunities and challenges that the fourth industrial revolution is bringing to the world of work.

(ECHR)

The European Court of Human Rights deals with privacy through the prism of Article 8 of the

...

The European Court of Human Rights deals with privacy through the prism of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It adjudicates on cases brought on against Council of Europe member states accused of being in violation of one or more articles of the Convention. The ECHR has a broad view of what it deems to be protected as ‘personal data’ as any information related to a person (identified or identifiable), which falls under the ‘private life’ part of Article 8. Its most recent high-profile case on the issue found the Hungarian government in breach of Article 8, due to its broad surveillance law.

(CJEU)

In recent years, the CJUE has adopted important rulings on Internet intermediary liabilities.

...

In recent years, the CJUE has adopted important rulings on Internet intermediary liabilities. In particular, CJUE’s case law focused for instance on the liability of a service provider in an online marketplace (McFadden v Sony Music Entertainment Germany, 2016), the liability of operators of internet marketplaces (L'Oréal v eBay, 2011), the liability of search engine operators (Google Spain case, 2014) and on the tension between data protection and online enforcement (Promusicae v Telefonica, 2008).

(EU)

In establishing its digital single market, the EU has progressively developed a dense 

...

In establishing its digital single market, the EU has progressively developed a dense copyright legislation corresponding to a set of ten directives, which harmonise essential rights of authors, performers, producers and broadcasters. To ensure EU copyright rules are fit for the digital age, the European Commission has recently presented legislative proposals to modernise the EU legal framework, in order to allow more cross-border access to content online and wider opportunities to use copyrighted materials in education, research and cultural heritage; and have a better functioning copyright marketplace.

(OECD)

Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation t

...

Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation to the challenges this phenomenon brings on traditional markets, and the need for adequate policy and regulatory frameworks to address them. In 2008, the organisation issued a set of policy guidelines for regulators to take into account when addressing challenges posed by convergence. In 2016, a report issued in preparation for the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy included new recommendations for policy-makers. Digital convergence issues have been on the agenda of OECD Ministerial meetings since 2008, and are also tackled in the regular OECD Digital Economy Outlook report.

(WEF)

Within the framework of its Digital Economy and Society initiative, WEF has launched the

...

Within the framework of its Digital Economy and Society initiative, WEF has launched the Internet for All project, aimed at bringing online tens of millions of Internet users by the end of 2019, initially through programmes targeted at the Northern Corridor in Africa, Argentina, and India. In addition to this project, WEF also undertakes research on Internet-access-related issues. One notable example is the annual Global Information Technology Report and the related Networked Readiness Index, which measures, among others, the rates of Internet deployment worldwide. Internet access and the digital divide are also addressed in the framework of various WEF initiatives such as its annual meetings and regional events.

Instruments

Judgements

Case of Barbulescu v Romania - European Court of Human Rights (2016)

Other Instruments

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

GIP event reports

Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and the Future of Work (2018)
Remedy against the Machine (2017)
Are Emerging Technology Innovations Driving Better Access to Remedy in Global Supply Chains? (2017)
The Future of Work (2017)
Launch of the Information Economy Report 2017 (2017)
How the Digital Revolution Changes Our Work Life (2017)
Work and Society (2017)
Decent Jobs for All (2017)
The Organization of Work and Production (2017)
The Governance of Work (2017)
How Youth of Today See the Future of Work and How They Will Contribute to Ensuring the Future We Want (2017)
ICANN58: Joint Meeting ICANN Board & Customer Standing Committee (2017)

Processes

Session reports

Click on the ( + ) sign to expand each day.

UNCTAD 2018

WSIS Forum 2018

12th IGF 2017

WTO Public Forum 2017

WSIS Forum 2017

IGF 2016

WTO Public Forum 2016

IGF 2015

 

The GIP Digital Watch observatory is provided by

in partnership with

and members of the GIP Steering Committee



 

GIP Digital Watch is operated by

Scroll to Top