New publications: Improving Workplace Data Protection & Bargaining over Workers’ Data Rights

Following up to an expert meeting in Brussels in October 2023 on the state of data protection compliance and enforcement at the workplace, these two new publications explore a variety of steps to improve the situation.

Improving workplace data protection

Nogarede, Justin; Silberman, Michael; Bronowicka, Joanna

Improving workplace data protection

Achieving workplace GDPR compliance, clarifying national workplace data protection rules, and enhancing worker data protection through social dialogue
Brussels, 2024

Download publication (630 KB, PDF-File)

Bargaining over workersʿ data rights

Abraha, Halefom

Bargaining over workersʿ data rights

How unions and works councils can use collective bargaining to specify workplace data protection norms
Brussels, 2024

Download publication (470 KB, PDF-File)

In October 2023, the FES Competence Centre on the Future of Work convened an expert workshop in Brussels to discuss the state of data protection compliance and enforcement at the workplace. Policymakers including regional and national data protection officials and European Commission officials attended, as did practitioners including trade union officials and technical experts from civil society organisations as well as academics actively involved in policy research in this area.

As a follow up to that discussion, we have published two papers that explore a variety of steps to improve workplace data protection, ranging from the adoption of national workplace data protection laws and collective agreements, to the creation of codes of conduct and promotion of strategic litigation.

Workplace compliance with existing data protection law appears poor. A variety of reasons explain this, including lack of legal clarity and under-resourcing of worker organisations (e.g., unions), data protection officers, and data protection authorities. The paper Improving Workplace Data Protection explores what social partners, governments and civil society organisations can do to improve data protection compliance at work. It explores the potential of codes of conduct and certification schemes, as well as the relevance of technical expertise and strategic litigation.

Workers have specific data protection needs that general data protection rules do not fully address. Recognising this, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) allows Member States and social partners to establish more detailed norms for the workplace. The paper Bargaining over Workers’ Data Rights provides guidance on the content of such specific workplace data protection norms and may be especially useful to unions and works councils that negotiate agreements on data protection issues.

About the authors

Halefom H. Abraha is an Assistant Professor at the International and European Law (IER) Department of the Utrecht School of Law. His research and teaching interests lie in AI Regulation, algorithmic management in the labour market, and data protection. He also researches cross-border data access in the law enforcement context and digital sovereignty. Dr. Abraha completed his postdoctoral research at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford. He has advised governments and international organisations such as the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on multiple areas of digital technology and public policy.

Joanna Bronowicka is a sociologist at the Center for Interdisciplinary Labour Law Studies at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) where she researches algorithmic management, resistance practices, and mobilisations of platform workers in Berlin. Previously, she worked as the director of the Centre for Internet and Human Rights and as an analyst at the Ministry of Digitisation in Poland.

Justin Nogarede is Senior Policy Officer at FES Future of Work. He focuses on data protection issues at work and the political economy of digitalisation. Before joining the team, he covered the digital policy portfolio at the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS). In the past, he also worked as policy officer in the Secretariat-General of the European Commission, on better regulation, the application of EU law, and various digital and single market policy files.

Michael Six Silberman works as a postdoctoral researcher in the ‘iManage’ Project on ‘Rethinking Employment Law for a World of Algorithmic Management,’ based at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford, and as the Lecturer in Sociotechnical Systems at the London College of Political Technology (Newspeak House). In the past, Silberman worked for IG Metall, the trade union in the German manufacturing sector, on rights for workers on digital labour platforms.

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