Laudator: Prof. Dr. Peter Wedde

The BigBrotherAward in the category “Workplace” goes to

PLT – Planung für Logistik Transport GmbH,

because with their PLT Staff Tracker, they offer a device that makes “by-the-minute” and “interruption-free tracking” of field staff possible. This results in a gapless, total surveillance of the employees who are obliged to carry this device.

The tracker is just a few centimetres in size. It contains a GPS receiver, a GSM/GPRS modem, a powerful battery, and an internal data-storage unit to ensure that the tour data remains accessible even if the mobile network fails.

PLT also offers the “TrackPilot” software which, when implemented, makes real-time localisation especially convenient. TrackPilot’s integrated extremely accurate map data enables employers to display the exact route the employee has completed. According to PLT, users are thus provided with exact logbooks and working time reports as well as numerous analyses and statistics for the effective management of vehicle fleets and staff. With just a few clicks, various reports can be generated and, if desired, exported. With the promised metre-perfect tracking it is possible, for example, to determine the speed at which the deliverers are moving, how long they linger at a door or in an office and when they have a break.

The PLT company receives the BigBrotherAward on behalf of all providers of the kind of surveillance technology that is implemented without regard to employee rights. Our award aims to stop this trend.

PLT in particular deserves to win the BigBrotherAward, because this company misrepresented legal regulations in their advertising in order to portray the implementation of Staff Trackers not only as lawful, but even as practically required by law. PLT claims on its website:

In particular the minimum wage law (Mindestlohngesetz or MiLoG), which came into effect on 1 January 2015, makes it necessary in many industrial sectors to monitor employees’ working hours and document them, accurate to the minute, so that it can be proved later that they were actually paid the minimum wage of 8.50 € per hour. In many sectors this entails immense additional effort just to document compliance with the law and meet the obligation to provide proof. Especially hard hit by the minimum wage law are delivery services and deliverers in newspaper and mail logistics. The actual working hours for deliverers must be recorded and kept for examination by the authorities for ten years.”

This advertising message is real “fake news”: actually the only thing correct about it is that the minimum wage law from 1 January 2015 imposes certain obligations on employers to supply records. According to § 17 section 1 there is an obligation to

record begin, end and duration of the daily work time for these employees not later than at the end of the seventh day following the day the work was performed, and retain these records for at least two years, starting from the time relevant for the recording.”

It would suffice for employees to fill out a time sheet, as they have been doing for decades. There is no mention of an obligation to monitor every minute of work time, nor of the right for employers to continuously register the exact location of each employee. A requirement to retain records for ten years does not exist, not even for the authorities. The claims made on the PLT website falsify the legal situation.

The overblown advertising claims on the PLT website do nothing to change the very clear situation in employment and data protection law, which in almost all cases prohibit a permanent and metre-perfect electronic complete monitoring of the position and movements of personnel. Data protection law permits exact online localisation of persons only in a few exceptional cases, such as for the crew of a loaded money transporter or firemen while on duty in a burning house. For “normal” staff such as delivery drivers it is thoroughly sufficient if their approximate position or estimated arrival time is transmitted to the headquarters.

The down-to-the-minute and metre-accurate tracking promised by the PLT Staff Tracker runs into easily recognisable and unambiguous legal limitations. For the sectors mentioned on their website:

winter service, watch duty, property protection, patrol services, agriculture and forestry, sports events or delivery services, deliverers in newspaper and mail logistics”

there is no legal authorisation. The use of staff trackers in these cases is therefore impermissible under employment and data protection law.

All the more astonishing is that, according to the PLT website, their Staff Tracker has already been “legally” implemented in several instances:

Already numerous delivery services have equipped their deliverers with the PLT Staff Tracker and have reached an appropriate internal labour-management agreement. Accordingly, the completed delivery tours are precisely tracked and the TrackPilot positioning system produces clearly structured work time reports. The reports can be stored as files and permanently archived.”

The reference to labour-management agreements, which allow for precise personal tracking of deliverers, amazed us. That would mean that works councils agreed to a form of complete monitoring that is impermissible according to rulings of the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) and the Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht).

That is why we had a closer look at the page “labour-management agreement” on the PLT website. We expected to find a reference list of examples from already negotiated agreements. Instead we found general information about possible regulation provisions and legal obstacles. This part of the of the PLT presentation is another clever marketing message pretending that everything is legally sound.

Another formulation that seems peculiar is this:

Due to its extremely small size, the device can be easily worn on the body or concealed, and it fits in every trouser pocket.”

Why does PLT indicate the possibility of concealing the Staff Tracker, possibly in the delivery vehicle or in a carrier bag? The position monitoring could then be carried out without the deliverer’s knowledge. That would clearly violate current law.

The use of staff trackers for the total surveillance of employees – whether the device is from PLT or another company – is degrading, unlawful and pointless. These devices, exactly like workplaces under total video surveillance, are a manifestation of an exuberant control mania and of an exaggerated distrust towards staff on the part of employers, who feel they must watch over and record every metre and every minute of their employees’ workday.

What is more: there is neither a legal requirement, nor does tracking a letter carrier to the exact minute and metre provide a savings potential for the business. Quite to the contrary: such control mechanisms cost money initially. Companies like PLT profit from the control mania of employers and from the absurd, but widespread notion that “surveillance equals security”. The technology offered for sale comes at the expense of the workers’ personal rights.

Hopefully, with this BigBrotherAward we will be able to prevent a number of company heads from falling for this propaganda. Try it the opposite way: convey trust and esteem to your staff. Optimise tour routing cooperatively and work collectively towards improved efficiency. Take seriously that these people know best about their tours and work procedures. That will surely have a positive influence on motivation – and it might just improve the work pace at no additional cost.

Congratulations on your BigBrotherAward 2017, PLT Planung für Logistik and Transport GmbH.

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Collage von Digitalcourage. – PLT-Logo (Quelle) – Figur: Bubble Person von adlerweb, Public Domain

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