International conference in Wrocław
On 25 September 2019, on the occasion of the centenary of the National Labour Inspectorate, an international conference was held at the NLI Training Centre in Wrocław under the title “Opportunities and challenges for the world of labour 4.0”. The conference gathered representatives of the Senior Labour Inspectors’ Committee, International Association of Labour Inspection, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, International Labour Organisation, heads and experts representing labour inspectorates from 17 European Union Member States. The host of the meeting was Wiesław Łyszczek, Chief Labour Inspector.
Among the conference participants were: His Excellency Metropolitan Archbishop of Wrocław and the National Chaplain of Workers Józef Kupny, Jacek Świat, Member of the Polish Parliament and member of the Social Policy and Family Committee of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, Prof. Danuta Koradecka, Vice-President of the Labour Protection Council and Director of the Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute, Krzysztof Woś, Director of the Legal and Personnel Affairs Office at the Chancellery of the Sejm, Anita Gwarek, Director of the Labour Law Department at the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, Kazimierz Kimso, Regional Head of the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarność” for Lower Silesia, members of the Labour Protection Council and representatives of social and institutional partners of the National Labour Inspectorate.
The conference was also attended by chief and deputy chief labour inspectors from the European Union countries.
Foreign partners were represented by (in alphabetical order): Janis Abols, Deputy Director of the State Labour Inspectorate of the Republic of Latvia, Miroslava Anguelova, General Director of the Labour Inspection General Directorate in Bulgaria, Miroslav Babic, Senior Labour Inspector from the State Labour Inspectorate in Croatia, Javier Barbero, Senior Labour Inspection Specialist from the International Labour Organization, František Cyprich, Deputy Chief Labour Inspector in Žilina, Slovakia Patrice Furlani, Head of the International Affairs Department at the Labour and Mines Inspectorate in Luxemburg, Laure Ginesty, Standardisation Officer at the Directorate General of Labour in France, Jonas Gricius, Chief State Labour Inspector in Lithuania, Rudolf Hahn, Inspector General of the State Labour Inspection Office in the Czech Republic, Alžbĕta Kellnerová, Director of the Legal Department at the State Labour Inspection Office in the Czech Republic, Rudolf Kubica, Chief Labour Inspector in Žilina, Slovakia, Yoline Kuipers, Policy Officer at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, representing the Senior Labour Inspectors’ Committee (SLIC) Secretariat, Marc Kuipers, Inspector General at the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment in the Netherlands, Daniel Molnar, Head of Unit for Methodology and Information on OSH at the Department of Occupational Safety and Health, Ministry of Finance of Hungary, Lorenzo Munar, Project Manager at the Prevention and Research Unit, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), Kevin Myers, President of the International Association of Labour Inspection, Albert Oleskevic from the State Labour Inspectorate of Lithuania, Håkan Olsson, Deputy Director General of the Swedish Work Environment Authority, Ernst-Friedrich Pernack, Head of the Department of Safety and Health at Work and Product Safety at the Ministry for Labour, Social Affairs, Health, Women and Family, Federal State of Brandenburg, Germany, Anna Ritzberger-Moser, Director General of Division VII, Labour Law and Central Labour Inspectorate, Federal Ministry for Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection in Austria, Silja Soon, Head of Supervisory Department at the Labour Inspectorate of Estonia, Arto Teronen, Director of Field Operations at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland, Luc Van Hamme, Head of the Division of Regional Control at the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue in Belgium and Vibe Westh, Deputy Director General of the Danish Working Environment Authority.
District labour inspectors, directors of departments at the Chief Labour Inspectorate, the Management of the NLI Training Centre and labour inspectors also participated in the conference.
Wiesław Łyszczek, Chief Labour Inspector, welcomed the participants and said that the conference was an excellent opportunity to share experience and vision and to reflect on how to face the challenge of labour protection in era 4.0. He expressed his hope that the conference would contribute to entering the era of the industry of the future without losing sight of human beings and their decent and safe work.
Iwona Hadacz, Deputy Director of the Personnel and Training Department at the Chief Labour Inspectorate, read a letter of Elżbieta Witek, Marshal of the Sejm, addressed to the conference participants. The Marshal of the Sejm referred to the centenary of the labour inspectorate and stated that thanks to the actions and involvement of many generations, the National Labour Inspectorate is now a modern institution acting for the benefit of the society and contributing to the growth of our country. The conference itself responds to the challenges presented by Industrial Era 4.0, which require a wide-ranging discussion and an exchange of ideas across all the inspection services in the European Union Member States.
A letter of the Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was read by Jacek Świat, Member of Parliament. The head of the Polish Government wished a productive meeting to the conference participants and wrote: “Digital transformation, which includes among others digitalisation, robotisation, internet of things and artificial intelligence, offers opportunities but also presents challenges for the labour market. I believe that this event will provide a chance for expert discussion and exchange of experience in this area”.
Anita Gwarek, Director of the Labur Law Department at the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy read a letter of Stanisław Szwed, Secretary of State in this Ministry. Vice Minister of Labour drew the audience’s attention to the fact that in the fourth industrial revolution the role of a human being is diminished and our tasks are taken over by intelligent machines. Therefore, technological development aside, changes in the forms of employment and the impact of the working environment on the functioning and health of workers become equally important. The National Labour Inspectorate will need to have necessary knowledge on the new risks, which is just as important for the minister competent in the area of labour.
Vice President of the Labour Protection Council, Prof. Danuta Koradecka emphasized in her speech a great responsibility of the National Labour Inspectorate, which combines two roles in its activity: a technical and a social one. “Nowadays the labour market sees the return of prosocial solutions. This is a great and tough challenge for the labour inspection” – said Prof. Koradecka.
Kevin Myers, President of the International Association of Labour Inspection, expressed his admiration for the rich history of the labour inspection in Poland. He also talked about a vital role of bilateral relations between labour inspectorates in Europe. Referring to the Era 4.0 challenges he said: “All labour inspectors in the world have one thing in common: they have to adapt to changes”.
Yoline Kuipers, Policy Officer at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, representing the Senior Labour Inspectors’ Committee (SLIC) Secretariat, highlighted the right choice of the topic of the conference in Wrocław. She said: “We are living in a very important moment in our history. We are facing a big challenge but a big opportunity is also presenting itself for us”.
As mentioned by Javier Barbero, Senior Labour Inspection Specialist from the International Labour Organization, the biggest challenge nowadays for labour inspection is to reconcile the tendency to increase work flexibility and the need to keep it safe.
The introductory part of the conference ended with a screening of the film about the history and the present of the National Labour Inspectorate.
The first thematic session of the conference focused on the impact of modern technologies on work safety. The moderator was Robert Jaworski from the Legality of Employment Department at the Chief Labour Inspectorate.
Jonas Gricius, Chief State Labour Inspector in Lithuania, made a presentation entitled “E-services provided by Labour Inspectorate. Development and Challenges”. He pointed out that nowadays electronic services are an inseparable part of our lives. It is not surprising then that these tools are used by labour inspectorates, not only in Lithuania. On the other hand, a novelty is the use of social media, e.g. Facebook, by labour inspectors to get in contact with workers, employers or social partners. Another representative of the Lithuanian labour inspectorate, Albert Oleskevic, presented the activities of labour disputes commissions.
Prof. Danuta Koradecka’s presentation was entitled “Safety and health in new technologies”. She gave examples of the negative impact of the newest technologies on human health and life and indicated that “Industry 4.0 enters our lives spontaneously, often without comprehensive studies on its effects on health and life of people. We do not know yet if it will increase or reduce risks for workers. Therefore, ensuring the well-being of people becomes a challenge on the way to succeeding in benefiting from civilisation opportunities resulting from Industry 4.0.
Ernst-Friedrich Pernack, Head of the Department of Safety and Health at Work and Product Safety at the Ministry for Labour, Social Affairs, Health, Women and Family of Federal State of Brandenburg talked about “Modern technologies and work safety from the perspective of Germany”. “In a digitized world of work, decreasing physical demands and increasing productivity are accompanied by increasing psychological and mental strain in many areas. The load spectrum is characterized by even greater heterogeneity” – he said with concern.
Luc Van Hamme, the Head of the Division of Regional Control at the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue in Belgium discussed the topic “New forms of work: difficulties in law enforcement and challenges for the labour inspectors”. He pointed out that the existing legal systems are based on the traditional understanding of the role of an employer. However, looking back on the last few decades, the actual exercise of such supervision may be a problematic issue.
Laure Ginesty, Standardisation Officer at the Directorate General of Labour in France, made a presentation on “Modern technologies and work safety”. She presented the conclusions from the works of an inter-ministerial working group “Industry of the future” and stated that “even when using a new technology one must not forget the rules of occupational health and safety”.
The first session ended with the presentation of Jakub Chojnicki, Director of the Supervision and Inspection Department at the Chief Labour Inspectorate, entitled “Worker safety today and tomorrow. The labour inspectorate’s role in the changing world of modern technologies”. He said that “the fourth industrial revolution will be one of the greatest challenges for humanity. Its safe implementation will not only depend on the involvement of governmental agencies, scientific institutes, financial institutions and entrepreneurs but it will also require preparation of labour inspections from all over the world to intervene in case of new, sometimes unknown risks and supervise working conditions in a completely different manner”.
The title of the afternoon session was “A man in a changing working environment”. Lorenzo Munar, Project Manager at the Prevention and Research Unit of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), discussed the topic “Anticipating new and emerging challenges to OSH”. As he explained, this is exactly what the European Risk Observatory established by EU-OSHA deals with. The Observatory produces discussion papers, reports, summaries and visualisations targeted at policy-makers, social partners, researchers and workplace intermediaries at the EU and national level to provide them with the information and tools necessary to address the identified new and emerging challenges effectively.
Anna Ritzberger-Moser, Director General of Division VII, Labour Law and Central Labour Inspectorate at the Federal Ministry for Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection in Austria talked about “Guaranteeing a safe work environment for the future worker”. She stated, among other things, that robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, continuous digital surveillance and all the other future technologies will influence “regular workplaces” as workers have to adapt to these revolutionary changes. Therefore, psychosocial risks will be our main concern, as robots will replace us during performance of dangerous, physically exhausting and monotonous tasks.
Håkan Olsson, Deputy Director General of the Swedish Work Environment Authority, offered a new outlook on “Healthy workplace for women and men at all age”. Is working good for health? – he asked. From a Swedish perspective, the answer is generally yes. Older people with many years of experience have a positive effect on the economy and contribute to an increase in its productivity.
Vibe Westh, Deputy Director General of the Danish Working Environment Authority, presented the “Danish perspectives on challenges and opportunities in a changing world of work”. The presentation showed new tendencies in the modern world of labour: technology, digitalisation, demographic changes, new groups in the labour market, e.g. persons working via platforms – in the context of OSH.
Silja Soon, Head of Supervisory Department at the Labour Inspectorate of Estonia, made a presentation entitled “Person in a changing working environment”. She stated that today new training methods for employees are needed as the younger generation prefers videos to paper-form materials.
At the end of this session, Jerzy Wlazło, Director of the Prevention and Promotion Department at the Chief Labour Inspectorate, made a speech on “Revolution or evolution in the labour market? Labour market 4.0 – new challenges for employers and workers”. He asked several questions: is it justified to preserve an 8-hour working day, may robotics pose a threat to workers, should one change the profession and if so, how often, how to ensure that workers keep a work-life balance and finally how to motivate workers and maintain their commitment to work? In the speaker’s opinion, answers to these questions have yet to be found.
After two thematic sessions an animated discussion ensued. The questions asked to the speakers by the audience encouraged the conference participants to ponder on the most important challenges faced by European labour inspectorates in the era of industry 4.0.
The Chief Labour Inspector, Wiesław Łyszczek, summed up the day of discussions and thanked the participants for valuable insights and comments.
He said: “The number and scope of issues that you have raised is an indication that the topic “Opportunities and challenges for the word of labour 4.0” is not an abstract slogan but has a real practical meaning. It is also a considerable challenge that we will all have to face. Era 4.0 will surely have an impact on the model of activity of labour inspection. Thanks to meetings such as this one it will be easier to keep up with the inevitable change resulting from the upcoming era 4.0”.
During the break, in front of the building of the NLI Jan Rosner Training Centre, the Chief Labour Inspector Wiesław Łyszczek presided over a ceremony of planting an oak tree, named Józef, to commemorate the centenary of the National Labour Inspectorate.
The conference in Wrocław ended with an official dinner. During dinner, Jonas Gricius offered to Wiesław Łyszczek an engraving with a symbolic title “The Wheel of Time”.