Analytics for the People?

What algorithms at the workplace mean for worker rights and participation

In a joint project with the trade union syndicom, AlgorithmWatch CH investigated how employees can be empowered when algorithmic systems are used in the workplace.

fragola designs for AlgorithmWatch

Project completed
Project duration: November 2022 to April 2024


  1. What is it about?
  2. Insights from the project
  3. Publications from the project
  4. What now?
  5. Further posts about the topic

At the center of the project “Analytics for the People? What algorithms at the workplace mean for worker rights and participation” was to create an overview how algorithms and “AI” are used in the workplace, what this means for the rights of workers and what political actions for trade unions and what political demands we can derive from this.

What is it about?

Automated Decision-Making (ADM) systems are being increasingly used at the workplace, be it to recruit people, to monitor workers' productivity or to optimize processes. These algorithmic systems sometimes make decisions or recommendations that are essential to employees, such as about promoting, advancing, rewarding, or even firing them. While the use of these systems is progressing at different speeds, many companies are planning to do so in the near future. In accordance with this tendency it is important that employers, trade unions and workers are aware of the risks that come with the use of these systems and how their application can be designed that not only employers but also employees benefit from it.

Insights from the project

In collaboration with the trade union syndicom we research these questions from November 2022 to April 2024 and published our findings. We focused on the participation of employees when algorithmic systems are used in the workplace. This focus is based on two reasons: Firstly, employee participation can reduce various risks that come from the use of algorithmic systems, such as discrimination or negative health effects. Secondly, participation leads to better systems - for companies as well as workers - because the needs and work context of employees can be incorporated more. The project produced the following insights.

1. Central role of employees

We analysed the current situation around the use of algorithmic systems in the workplace (in German) and the particpation of employees and discussed these with experts (in German). We found the following:

We examined the legal situation and used this as the basis for a position paper (in German) aimed at actors in the Swiss political system. The demands were picked up in the parliamentary session in winter 2023 in the National Council. In March 2024 the demands were topic of a round table with representatives from politics, science, trade unions and companies. The following demands are at the center of the debate:

3. Knowledge dissemination for better work for everyone

Neither trade unions nor employers need to wait for a law to create new rights to include workers - in terms of a sustainable and purposeful use of resources it also helps companies when employers can have a say in digitalisation processes. Based on this we worked on what workers, trade unions and worker representatives need to know to stand up for their rights when a company uses algorithmic systems. This includes the following points:

Publications from the project

Base analysis “Analytics for the People? Where algorithms are used in the workplace – an overview” by Bettina Dürr
Algorithmic systems in the workplace can have huge impacts on workers. This is why workers should be able to co-determine the use of these systems to protect their fundamental rights. This short report shows how employers in Switzerland deal with this responsibility. Continue reading (in German)

Legal report “Employee participation around the use of ADM systems in the workplace” by Isabelle Wildhaber and Isabel Ebert
Algorithmic systems are increasingly being used in workplaces in Switzerland. Under the current legal framework, companies should involve their employees in certain decisions. However, this is often not the case in practice. This report shows which rights employees have as well as which obligations employers have when it comes to employee participation, what gaps can be identified in the legal framework and how these could be closed. Continue reading

Training measures “Algorithms in the Workplace: Empowering Employees – Enabling Participation” by Bettina Dürr
Worker participation is an important factor to make sure that this technological transformation has positive effects on employees. This publication sums up what trade unions need to know about algorithmic systems in the workplace and how they can enable employee participation. Continue reading

What now?

AlgorithmWatch CH will continue campaigning for a use of algorithmic systems in the workplace that respects workers' rights. The findings from this project provide a base for this work. To stay informed about the current activities at AlgorithmWatch CH on the topic of algorithmic systems and work: sign up to our AlgorithmNews (in German) here. syndicom will also continue working on these issues, as Daniel Hügli, member of the executive board and head of sector ICT at syndicom, explained in a short interview.

Further posts about the topic

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