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Labour law

Updates

16 Oct 2016

In the wake of a crumbled deal over a potential bid for Twitter, analysts are now estimating that the ailing company could cut 10% of its workforce, the Financial Times (FT Weekend, print) reports. As Twitter may need to get its cost structure in line, the layoffs are likely to be from the sales and marketing departments where the company spent 39% of its revenue - as opposed to, for example, Facebook’s 14%.

14 Oct 2016

The upcoming months hold different prospects for the labour market. While Twitter could lay off 10% of its sales and marketing labour force, Amazon expects to hire 20% more staff ahead of the holiday season. The company announced it was creating more than 120,000 seasonal positions across its U.S. network of fulfillment centers, sortation centres and customer service sites. Last year, more than 14,000 seasonal positions were transitioned to regular, full-time roles at Amazon after the holidays; the company expects to increase that number this year.

31 Aug 2016

The European Commission has ordered Apple to pay the Irish state up to €13 billion in taxes, after an investigation into Apple's 'sweetheart tax' granted by Ireland. According to EU competition officials, the Apple-Ireland agreement has resulted in unlawful state aid. The response to the move has been divided and its economic and political consequences are yet unclear. Also unclear is the impact on jobs and job creation in Europe. Apple and Ireland have both announced that they will appeal against the decision. 

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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

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)

Processes

Developments in the digital economy also have consequences on employment.

Developments in the digital economy also have consequences on employment. Digital Economy, Jobs and Multistakeholder Practices (WS 29) discussed the short-term phenomenon of job losses due to automation, which is believed will be offset by the job-creating impact of innovation in the long term.

 

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