Trade unions in the insurance sector should act quickly to ensure the rights and conditions of insurance workers post-Covid-19, heard participants at an online meeting organized by UNI Europa Finance (with the participation also of UNI Finance’s Japanese affiliates) on 21 June. The pandemic has had a major impact on workplaces and work organization, with almost 90 per cent of Europe’s insurance workers working remotely since March 2020.
“Insurance workers were quick to adapt to working from home and their flexibility proved vital to the sector,” said Pierre Charles Pradier, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne. His research, commissioned by UNI Finance, shows a sector under rapid transformation, but workers need to negotiate now to protect themselves from increased workloads and make sure they can also benefit from any costs saved through increased remote work, he warned.
Trade unions have a key role to play in guaranteeing strong collective rights and conditions in a post-Covid workplace.
Italy’s insurance social partners signed a landmark agreement in February 2021 setting out strict guidelines for remote work, including on work/life balance, the right to disconnect, cost compensation and access to online communication networks.
And in Finland, UNI affiliates PRO have developed digital training for their members and are working with the insurance employers on a joint project to harness new technologies and give workers access to the skills training and lifelong learning needed to secure their jobs in the changing world of work. “Artificial intelligence and digital technologies are having a growing impact on the daily tasks of insurance workers,” said Liisa Halme, manager of the insurance sector at PRO, adding “We as trade unions must ensure we are ahead of the curve and seen as active partners in this debate.”
UNI Europa Finance also works with the insurance employers at the European level to negotiate commitments on a variety of topics – from Artificial Intelligence (AI) to remote working conditions to diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination – which our affiliates are then encouraged to use as a base for collective agreements at their own sectoral and/or company level. “European social dialogue must not be taken for granted”, said Vic Van Kerrebroeck (ACV Puls Belgium), UNI Europa Finance coordinator for the insurance social dialogue. “It is only by working together as social partners that we can get the best results and protections for Europe’s insurance workers,” he noted.
The Covid pandemic has also shown the importance of unions working together across borders and in solidarity to better face the challenges and find common solutions. The European Works Council of Italian insurance multinational Generali has adopted an ambitious joint declaration with the employer committing to open and transparent dialogue and respect for information and consultation rights also during times of crisis.
“We must get used to this new way of working that has emerged during Covid but also make sure no one is left behind,” said Carole Bourner (CFDT France), Secretary of the Generali EWC. “This joint statement is a guarantee that in any crisis situation, all Generali workers will be treated equally, from stringent health and safety protections to the respect for work/life balance and reimbursement of costs when working remotely.”
“We must not allow employers to use remote work as an excuse to digitally off-shore jobs,” concluded UNI Finance Head of Department Angelo Di Cristo. “Fighting to protect the collective rights and conditions of all workers, regardless of their place of work, will be one of the main challenges for trade unions as the remote work trend continues to grow.”