The Global Deal

Anticipating the future of work

The development of digital technologies and the rise of automation have ignited fears of employment restructuring and job losses, but what if it didn’t have to be this way? Some companies are taking the initiative to innovate and prepare for these changes by engaging in social dialogue to maximise the benefits of technological developments and AI to their business, while protecting the futures of their workers. One such example comes from Hamburg, Germany.

Photo: Copyright HHLA/Thies Raetzke


Technological progress in the form of artificial intelligence and robotisation is igniting fears that there may be massive job losses in the near future. However, this example of good practice from Hamburg Hafen Logistics (HHLA) shows that social dialogue can be used to manage those fears, transforming what would have otherwise been resistance into cooperation on change.


The container terminal Altenwerder (CTA) is a subsidiary of HHLA, a leading European logistics company in the port of Hamburg. While CTA is already automated to a high degree, the applicability of new technology is constantly reviewed. As a result, new and technologically advanced working methods were effectively introduced in 2017.


There is also a strong tradition of social partnership at HHLA. Social dialogue is used as a means to anticipate the introduction of new technologies into the workplace by promoting and investing in multiple qualifications for workers and through a collective agreement setting out how to engage in social dialogue throughout the process.


The results confirm the beneficial role social dialogue can play both for business and workers.  Providing worker voice and involving worker representatives in the process of change has created a culture of openness to innovation and learning new skills amongst the workforce. Social dialogue at HHLA has prevented detrimental effects of new technology on workers while at the same time facilitating their introduction and thus enhancing the company’s competitive advantage.




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