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ISSUE 54 page 8

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Sites of Interest
Dutch ‘smart work’ centres use the Internet to move your workplace
 THE IDEA OF TELEWORK HAS BEEN AROUND FOR many years now, in fact unions and employers agreed an EU directive on it in 2002. By regulating the conditions of employees working from home the social partners hoped to make it easy for employers to save on office space and facilities while workers would be spared long commuting hours and find it easier to maintain a work/life balance. However managers often felt a loss of control if they could not see rows of office workers sitting behind desks and some employees found that the manifold distractions at home got in the way of work even as they missed cups of coffee and general interaction with other staff. Now local authorities and private companies in the Netherlands have come up with a ‘third way’. Smart work centres aim to provide all the facilities of a workplace but much closer to home.
Meeting rooms, wireless Internet networks and video conferencing capability are available for use by employees of many different firms who live locally. The first centre was built in 2008 in Almere, a new town forty kilometres from Amsterdam, to which many residents commuted by car. Not only did using the centre save them time, it also cut down on carbon dioxide emissions and left more room for the non-work part of their lives. According to Hans Tijl of the Amsterdam Urban Planning Service ‘If people can be more productive in a different environment … then maybe they can do the same amount of work in less time, which gives them more time for other things’. Companies and workers seem to agree with him as there are now over 100 Smart Work Centres in the country.

A smart business centre in the Netherlands

They do not have to work in the centres all week, some may be there for only a couple of hours and go to their usual office the rest of the time.



 Web sites and reports mentioned on pages 7 & 8 are available at:
 5xbetter metalwork health & safety (in Dutch)
 European Construction Mobility Information Net
EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive
EU cookie law starts in May

COOKIES ARE THE LITTLE PIECES OF SOFTWARE that arrive in your computer when you visit certain web sites, usually commercial ones, to tell the company concerned vital information such as when you logged on to their site and what you looked at. This is then often used to control the sort of advertising they show you in the future. While it is usually possible to turn this feature off on your browser, either for specific sites or altogether, the European Commission wants to create an ‘opt-in’ to replace the ‘opt-out’. Former Information Commissioner Viviane Reding explained the new Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive by stressing that ‘a person's information can only be used with their prior consent … We cannot give up this basic principle, and have all our exchanges monitored, surveyed and stored in exchange for a promise of “more relevant” advertising’. The new law is effective from May 25th but various Internet companies have already tried to cater for it. Yahoo has added a tiny grey button to its UK site called ‘AdChoices’ which allows management of cookies, Google has come up with a plug-in to enable web-surfers to opt out of advertising while the popular Firefox browser offers a ‘Do Not Track’ extension. However it is not clear if these solutions will be enough to keep commercial sites on the right side of the law. The new Commissioner in charge of the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, opined that ‘the ideas so far tabled fall short of meeting the principles I have set out’. Some experts believe that each site will have to seek permission to use cookies from each user, except for those keeping track of the contents of ‘shopping baskets’ which are exempted, and these could take the form of ‘pop-ups’ which the industry believes are hated by the users. In the UK the government has said that companies should not be prosecuted immediately as guidelines will not be ready by 25th May but users will still be able to complain to the Information Commissioner about individual web sites.



Mobile builders get web help
 THE EUROPEAN FEDERATION OF BUILDING and Woodworkers  have constructed a new web site to help their members who find work in foreign countries. The European Construction Mobility Information Net (ECMIN) carries information about pay, holidays, travel allowances, social security rights and sick benefit in sixteen European countries. The languages available reflect the make-up of migrant workers being Bulgarian, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Turkish and Ukrainian. Where possible contact details of speakers of these languages are given for each country as well as for relevant construction trade union and public officials  

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