Final event "Labour and democracy"


"Democracy is slow, but AI is fast and furious: challenges in the digital transformation"

On Tuesday evening, 25 June, the "Work and Democracy" event series came to a close at the O-Werk with the lecture "Democracy is slow, but AI is fast: challenges in the digital transformation", followed by a panel discussion and a total of around 50 participants (online and in person).

Antonia 25.06.

Antonia Weirich (Project Coordinator HUMAINE, Chair of Production Systems) introduced the evening with an overall view of the HUMAINE research project and continued with a presentation by Prof. Dr. Manfred Wannöffel (Managing Director of the Centre of cooperation RUB/IGM), Dr. Claudia Niewerth (Managing Director of the Helex Institute/ Centre of cooperation RUB/IGM) and Dirk Stüter (Chairman of the Works Council at Doncasters), who discussed the relationship between technology, personnel and organisation. Prof. Dr Manfred Wannöffel first offered a fundamental classification of the relationship between work and technology, in particular AI. He placed work - as a democratic experiential space - in relation to AI - as a place where independent knowledge is generated - and in this context pointed out the risk of decoupling human experiential knowledge from work. Despite this, he warned against technological determinism and emphasised the path-dependent and incremental nature of AI introduction processes, which requires a dominant role for labour policy as well as primary and secondary power resources.

Claudia 25.06.

On this basis, Dr Claudia Niewerth explained the role of employee representatives in the introduction and use of AI, pointing out the diversity of operational realities. She emphasised the need for early and reciprocal transparency in order to be able to use the mechanisms of the Works Constitution Act and implement them at company level.
Dirk Stüter, Chairman of the Works Council at Doncasters (a pilot partner in the HUMAINE project), presented the practical implementation, as Doncasters is currently being supported by the Centre of cooperation RUB/IGM in the implementation of a works agreement on AI.

Dirk 25.06.

he entire series of events was then discussed on a panel in the form of a review. Sophia Friedel (Institute for Social Movements), Prof. Dr Rolf G. Heinze (Senior Professor, Department of Sociology, RUB) and Dr Fabian Hoose (Institute for Work and Qualification UDUE/ Centre of cooperation RUB/IGM) took part in the panel discussion "The future of co-determination against the background of erosion tendencies"; the discussion was moderated by Lara Obereiner (Joint Research Centre RUB/IGM). The panellists had previously given their own lecture in the event series and discussed the evening across topics and in relation to contributions from the audience. One focus of the discussion was the central topic of the first evening of lectures on the culture of remembrance and its significance for social democracy. Sophia Friedel emphasised the relevance of including various stakeholders in the shaping of a culture of remembrance, which could be diverse and not necessarily tied to specific places. The panel emphasised the importance of not getting stuck in a "nostalgic past", but rather - especially against the backdrop of new forms of gainful employment - looking to the future and realigning social democracy with the current needs of employees.

Podium 25.06.

In this context, Prof. Dr Rolf Heinze emphasised the potential of welfare associations as sleeping giants, which have accounted for a large proportion of the employment gains in the rapidly growing service sector in recent decades and offer prospects for strengthening democracy. Subsequently, the relevance of co-determination in the workplace for the experience of democracy, which is weakened by the loss of employees' power resources and results in experiences of powerlessness, was emphasised "Democracy does not stop at the factory gate".

Growing singularity tendencies in gainful employment pose major challenges for the importance of collective interest representation. Dr Fabian Hoose appealed for joint opportunities to shape the debate in order to demonstrate the relevance of interest representation wherever it is needed. The panel concluded with an outlook on the scope for action that interest groups can take in the context of communication and utilising their power resources.

This evening marked the end of the "Labour and Democracy" event series for the time being. We would like to thank all the supporters and speakers for making this series so successful and, of course, the many viewers who came to the O-Werk over the weeks or joined in online for the lively discussions. The challenges posed by current transformation developments with regard to democracy and co-determination will continue to occupy us as part of our transfer research and will be a central topic of upcoming publications.