Digitalisation – Between Brave New Freedom and Modern Slavery


The Hans-Böckler-Stiftung's topic at re:publica TEN

Our next post is written by our partner, the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung.

At first glance, topics and terms describing the world of trade unions and online communities seem far apart. In reality, however, they cover common issues in regard to work in the future. The Hans-Böckler-Stiftung wants to pose the right questions on this platform concerning democracy and economy. Using the slogan “Rethink. Shape. Participate.“ the organization invites participants of the re:publica to debate future issues relating to how we want to live and work in the future. The aim is to find common answers which will enable employers and employees, or clients and contractors to act on equal grounds within the digital world, shaping a humane, fair, and sustainable economy.

We have all quickly adjusted to the comforts provided by digital technologies. Via social networks we stay in contact with friends and develop new political forms of participation. We like to purchase and book online; founders and entrepreneurs develop new business models and products and sell them worldwide; companies optimize internal work flows through big data processes, improve services to the benefit of the customer, and make hard work more humane.

Clients are searching for new self-determined forms of work. Especially all the self-employed creatives here in Berlin feel free. They enjoy determining their working hours and workplace themselves. In this regard, Berlin serves as an interesting seismograph for future developments, and tells us another story: Many people who choose these new work forms for themselves earn very little. Why? Business risks are shifted to clients in a very one-sided manner. The contractor’s unilateral terms and conditions replace the good old employment contract at eye level. This often leads to today’s modern slaves.

We often also don’t look close enough at the risks related to big data as we do not wish to miss the enormous gains provided by digitalization. But we should take a closer look. Surveillance practices by secret services and companies have shown us for quite some time now what is possible: unfortunately, the digitalization progress enables them to monitor, check, control, and direct us – to an unprecedented extent. These risks touch upon our personal and individual rights, as stated in our democratic constitution.

In two panel discussions our team at the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung will be taking a look at the implications of crowdworking and big data on employees and clients. We invited Andrea Kocsis, vice chairman from ver.di (with her session "Big Data und Arbeitnehmer: Zwischen Selftracking Corporate Panopticon"), and Christiane Benner, second chairperson of the IG Metall (with her session: "Crowdworking behind the screen – Clickworking & Labor Rights"), two renowned experts on the topic of worker participation and digital economy. We will be discussing these issues with visitors at our booth and invite you to ask questions or leave comments for the sessions.

You may of course also make use of twitter and comment @ZukunftMB or under #zukunftmitbestimmung. We look forward to the debate.

Photo credit: Hans-Böckler-Stiftung