Shaping Industry 4.0 – an experimental approach developed by German trade unions

Despite declining union density, the existence of works councils in the core sectors of the
economy gives German trade unions considerable institutional power. Besides collective bargaining,
the training and activation of works councillors is the trade unions’ most important sphere
of activity. Through their involvement in the ‘Arbeit 2020’ project analysed in this article, three
industrial unions have been attempting to find answers to the question of how Industry 4.0 will be
shaped on the shop floor. With the assistance of publicly funded external consultants and the
involvement of the workforce, the change processes in selected plants were investigated. In a
number of them, agreements on the future shaping of digital change were successfully concluded.
The project was devised as an experiment, since the very diverse situations in the various plants
meant it was impossible for outsiders to go in with fixed specifications for the shaping of change.
The largest of the unions involved, IG Metall, intends to use these experiences in the next two
years as the basis for training 1000 full-time and voluntary officials to act as ‘promoters of change’
in the workplace.

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European Workplace Innovation Network (EUWIN)

EUWIN was established by the European Commission in 2013 and is now entirely supported by contributions from an international network of partners co-ordinated by HIVA (University of Leuven). EUWIN also functions as a network partner for the H2020 Beyond4.0 project.

Contact: Workplace Innovation Europe CLG (