Project Information

Work 4.0: Work and Codetermination in digitalized production systems

Background and objectives

The research project “Work 4.0”, financed by the Hans Böckler Foundation, had two starting points. The first starting point was the debate on “Industry 4.0”. Industry 4.0 was initially little more than a vision and a model for the future of industrial production based on digital networking and the development of cyber-physical systems. However, the vision of the "new machine age" was accompanied by forecasts and scenarios of radical job cuts, new requirements on work, qualification and flexibility, or even ways of digitally controlling work. Thus, Industry 4.0 became a central topic in the industrial sociological debate. The second starting point was new activities and projects of the trade union interest groups to shape digitization, which were developed in parallel. For the trade unions, much was and still is at stake: the predicted decline in employment posed a fundamental threat to the future of industrial work, and Industry 4.0 seemed to shake the foundations of skilled production work, which remains at the heart of trade union organizational power in the industrial sectors. With the project "Work 2020 in NRW", the three industrial trade unions IG Metall, IG BCE and NGG launched a trade union project aimed at actively shaping the technological change processes rather than preventing them.

The "Work 4.0" research project aimed to provide scientific support for the trade union project. To this end, an interdepartmental team was set up with Prof. Dr. Gerhard Bosch, Prof. Dr. Thomas Haipeter, Dr. Tabea Bromberg (who unfortunately left us before the end of the project), Jutta Schmitz and Anne-Christin Spallek. This team pursued three overriding goals in the research process: The evaluation of information on the status of digitization, the analysis and assessment of the instruments of the "Work 2020" project such as the project workshops, the creation of a works map, the negotiation of future agreements with company managements, and thirdly and finally the investigation of the project's impact on the co-determination practice of works councils.

Research methods

These questions were approached with a new type of field approach, which focused on process support for the project. In this way, 19 of the approximately 30 cases from the first project phase of "Work 2020" were covered by our investigation – at the time our project duration ended, a second phase was added. The form of this monitoring was based on observational participation or participatory observation: the scientists were observers and recorders of the processes and recorded the course and results; they also intervened with their own questions and ideas and were part of the active consulting and support team in this role. The participatory observation was supplemented by expert interviews with works councils, trade union project secretaries and consultants.


The findings can be bundled into three result clusters along the lines of the questions mentioned. The information collected in the consulting workshops on the spread of digitization suggests that digitization in the companies under investigation should be interpreted as an evolutionary process. Evolutionary means that new technologies dock on to old technological paths, that technological innovations take place gradually and that in most cases there is no overall digitization strategy in the companies that would have outlined digitization or Industry 4.0 as the technological target vision. The situation is different when companies are equipped with new control software, the so-called ERP systems. These systems have been introduced on a large scale in companies and are linked to many new – or old and adapted – systems, for example in production planning or design and development.

The collection of this data was also the decisive step on the way to the company map, one of the central instruments of the trade union project "Work 2020". The company maps are a graphic instrument that can be used to organize and graphically process the data on the development of digitization and working conditions in the respective departments or functional areas of the companies. However, the company map is more than just an information tool; it is also a dialogue instrument for the collection and use of the data. In the company agreements on the future of the company, the works councils agreed with the company management on extended options for shaping the future. As a result, seven future agreements were negotiated by the end of our research project, which primarily regulate co-determination processes such as commissions with equal representation. The future agreements thus formulate a mandate for action for the works councils that goes beyond the "Work 2020" project.

The "Work 2020" project has generated new impulses for co-determination among works councils. For quite a number of committees, the project provided the impetus to look into the development of their companies for the first time in full-day workshops and to exchange their experiences intensively. Some of the committees have developed more professional structures and reorganized their internal division of labour with committees. Secondly, the participation processes set up in the project meant new territory for many works councils. In two of the companies investigated, the participation offerings were also expanded through surveys and departmental meetings, which were strategically used to identify issues and strengthen the legitimacy of the representation of interests; in a third case, the trade union shop stewards were involved in the project from the outset. All in all, this enabled the works councils to significantly increase their level of competence and, where negotiations took place, to negotiate with management on an equal footing, on an issue of which most works councils had only approximate ideas before the project.

The "Work 2020" project opened up new resources and sources of power for works councils, strengthened their legitimacy and sharpened their interpretations of labour policy problems. It thus linked trade union company and industrial policy and showed that cooperation between works councils and trade unions in companies is becoming increasingly important. This applies above all to smaller companies, whose works councils usually have a considerable difference in competence compared with works councils in large companies.


Haipeter, Thomas, 2020: Digitalisation, unions and participation: the German case of 'industry 4.0'. In: Industrial Relations Journal 51 (3), pp. 242-260 | DOI-Link

Bosch, Gerhard, 2018: Die Debatte um Industrie 4.0 und Arbeit 4.0 in Deutschland. In: Simon Fietze, Doris Holtmann und Florian Schramm: Zwischen Provinzen und Metropolen: Stationen einer sozioökonomischen Reise. Festschrift für Wenzel Matiaske, S. 233–241

Bosch, Gerhard, 2018: Zukunft der Arbeit – Industrie 4.0 – eine Herausforderung? In: Deutschland & Europa H. 76, S. 48–52 | Lesen

Haipeter, Thomas, 2018: Digitalisierung, Mitbestimmung und Beteiligung – auf dem Weg zur Mitbestimmung 4.0? In: Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen, Peter Ittermann und Jonathan Niehaus: Digitalisierung industrieller Arbeit: die Version Industrie 4.0 und ihre sozialen Herausforderungen. 2., aktual. und erw. Aufl., S. 303–321

Haipeter, Thomas / Korflür, Inger / Schilling, Gabi, 2018: Neue Koordinaten für eine proaktive Betriebspolitik. Erfahrungen aus dem Gewerkschaftsprojekt „Arbeit 2020 in NRW“. In: WSI-Mitteilungen 71 (3), S. 219–226| Info

Bosch, Gerhard / Bromberg, Tabea / Haipeter, Thomas / Schmitz, Jutta, 2017: Industrie und Arbeit 4.0. Befunde zu Digitalisierung und Mitbestimmung im Industriesektor auf Grundlage des Projekts „Arbeit 2020“. Duisburg: Inst. Arbeit und Qualifikation. IAQ-Report 2017-04 | DOI-Link| Info | Lesen


Prof. Dr. Gerhard Bosch, Prof. Dr. Thomas Haipeter, Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler, Anne-Christin Spallek: Neue Mitbestimmungspraktiken in der digitalen Transformation der „Industrie 4.0“. Befunde aus dem gewerkschaftlichen Projekt Arbeit 2020 in NRW. Autorenkonferenz „Industrielle Beziehungen“, Universität Hamburg, 13.12.2018

Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler: Beschäftigungsentwicklung 4.0 - (potenzielle) Auswirkungen der Digitalisierung? "Arbeit 4.0 - Qualifizierungsreihe für Betriebsräte", DGB Bildungswerk NRW / Arbeit 2020, Ascheberg, 10.07.2018  Weitere Informationen

Anne-Christin Spallek: Was macht Arbeit 4.0 mit den Beschäftigten. Arbeit 4.0 - Wie die Digitalisierung unsere Arbeitswelt verändert. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Kamen, 08.06.2018

Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler: Digitalisierung: Stand und Herausforderungen für die Arbeit der Zukunft. Verdi Bezirk Münster, Organwahlen Fachbereich Finanzdienstleistungen, Münster, 18.04.2018

Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler: Arbeit 4.0 zum Thema machen: Betriebliche Mitbestimmung gestalten. Digitalisierung und Arbeit 4.0 - Auswirkungen auf die betriebliche Mitbestimmung. Münster, DGB Bildungswerk NRW, 21.02.2018  Weitere Informationen

Dr. Tabea Bromberg: Was macht Arbeit 4.0 mit den Beschäftigten? Arbeit 4.0 - Wie die Digitalisierung unsere Arbeitswelt verändert. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Goch, 28.01.2018

Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler: Chancen und Risiken der Digitalisierung für Frauen. Sitzung des Facharbeitskreis Gleichstellung der Region NiederRhein. Wesel, Regionalagentur Niederrhein, 12.12.2017

Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler: Die "Her-Story" - Arbeit 4.0 und die Frauen. KFD-Jahrestagung des ständigen Ausschusses Frauen und Erwerbsarbeit. Mainz, Katholische Frauengemeinschaft Deutschlands, 25.11.2017

Dr. Tabea Bromberg: Arbeit 4.0. Im Dialog: Arbeit und Gesellschaft 4.0 - Wie gelingen die Herausforderungen der Digitalisierung?. Unna, Volkshochschule Unna Fröndenberg Holzwickede, 24.11.2017

Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler: Arbeit 4.0 - Hintergrund, Entwicklungen, Fragen. KFD-Jahrestagung des ständigen Ausschusses Frauen und Erwerbsarbeit. Mainz, Katholische Frauengemeinschaft Deutschlands, 24.11.2017

Dr. Tabea Bromberg: Industrie und Arbeit 4.0. Befunde zu Digitalisierung und Mitbestimmung im Industriesektor. Zukunftsprojekt Arbeitswelt 4.0. Stuttgart, Ministerium für Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Wohnungsbau Baden-Württemberg, 04.10.2017

Dr. Tabea Bromberg: Zwischenstand im Projekt Arbeit 4.0. Dialogkreis Moderne Betriebsratsarbeit. Düsseldorf, Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, 28.09.2017

Dr. Tabea Bromberg: Was macht Arbeit 4.0 mit den Beschäftigten? Arbeit 4.0 - Wie die Digitalisierung unsere Arbeitswelt verändert. Goch, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Landesbüro NRW, 01.09.2017

Dr. Tabea Bromberg: Arbeit der Zukunft gestalten. Arbeit der Zukunft mitgestalten. Herausforderungen für die Betriebs- und Personalrätearbeit. Gelsenkirchen, DGB-Region Emscher-Lippe, 23.06.2017

Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler: Digitalisierung und Arbeit 4.0 - Auswirkungen auf die Dienstleistungsbranche? Ver.Di Müsnter After-Work Reihe. Münster, Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft Bezirk Münsterland, 17.05.2017

Dr. Tabea Bromberg: Zukunft der Industriearbeit - Alte Wahrheiten, neue Herausforderungen. Workshop "Neue" Arbeitszeitdebatte. Hannover, Hamburg, NGG, 16.02.2017

Dr. Tabea Bromberg, Prof. Dr. Thomas Haipeter: Arbeit 4.0: Chancen stärken – Risiken minimieren . Schaufenster – Arbeit 2020 in NRW. Lüdenscheid, Düsseldorf, IG Metall, 17.01.2017

Dr. Tabea Bromberg: Arbeit 4.0. Jobcenter 2025 - Arbeitsmarkt 4.0. Hannover, gfa publik, Berlin, 14.09.2016

Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler: Arbeit 4.0. Arbeitsmarktkonferenz 2016. Münster, Stadt Münster/Jobcenter Münster, 08.09.2016

Project data

Term of the project:
01.04.2016 - 31.08.2018

Reseach department:
Working-Time and Work Organisation, Flexibility and Security

Project management:
Prof. Dr. Thomas Haipeter,Prof. Dr. Gerhard Bosch

Project team:
Dr. Tabea Bromberg,Dr. Jutta Schmitz-Kießler, Anne-Christin Spallek

Stadt Essen, Hans-Böckler-Stiftung