S2E01: The Legal Right to Disconnect feat. EU parliament member Alex Aguis Saliba

Today on the show we welcome Alex Aguis Saliba, an EU parliament member. Alex is part of the Maltese delegation to the EU parliament and was elected in 2019 on behalf of the labor party. Alex is able to offer a very interesting perspective to this show as he has experience both as a Journalist and as a Lawyer – so he speaks from multiple viewpoints. During this episode Alex and R Blank talk about the right to disconnect as a fundamental human right especially in the modern-digital age we are in. During the conversation the pair discuss that the average American listener will probably never have even heard of the right to disconnect and would, most likely, be shocked to know that such a right could exist or be enforced. The conversation also touches on the fact that too many people have an unhealthy relationship with modern technology, and that the right to disconnect regulations could be key to advancing and improving that situation.

In this episode you will hear: 

  • What is the right to disconnect as a human right
  • Benefits of teleworking
  • Legislation implementation on the right to disconnect
  • Why it is essential to have flexibility in different working methods and environments




R Blank 0:01
On today’s show, I’ll be speaking to a member of the EU parliament, Alex edges Saliba MEP Saliba as part of the Maltese delegation to the EU parliament, who was elected in 2019. On behalf of the Labour Party, he has experienced both as a journalist and as a lawyer. In parliament, he is co chair of the MEP Alliance for Mental Health. And he is a leading proponent of something called the right to disconnect, which is what we’re going to be talking about today.

Alex Agius Saliba 0:24
So basically, the right to disconnect can be described as the right of workers to switch off their digital devices after work without basically facing negative consequences for North responding to communications from the bosses, from the colleagues or also from their clients,

R Blank 0:44
where the right to disconnect is increasingly considered a fundamental right, that allows workers to refrain from engaging in work related tasks, such as phone calls, emails and other digital communication outside working hours. This is a concept that is likely foreign to most of our US listeners. And so I’m really excited to get into this topic today. I’m incredibly pleased to welcome NEP, Alex Akers Saliba to the podcast. Before we begin a brief word. This podcast is brought to you by my company shield your body where it is our mission to help make technology safer for you and your loved ones to enjoy. Inspired by the life’s work of my father, Dr. Martin blank, one of the world’s leading EMF scientists I founded shield your body in 2012. We provide a ton of great and free resources for you to learn all about EMF radiation, like articles, ebooks, webinars and videos. We also have a world class catalog of laboratory tested EMF and 5g protection products from our phone pouch and laptop pad all the way up to our bed canopy. All of our products are laboratory tested and include a lifetime warranty learn more about our products and why we have hundreds of 1000s of satisfied customers around the world at shield your body calm that shield your body, all one word.com or click the link in the show notes and use promo code pod to save 15% On your first order with free shipping throughout North America, the UK and Europe. Alex, thank you so much for taking time out of your incredibly busy, busy schedule. Welcome. Welcome to the podcast.

Alex Agius Saliba 2:08
Thanks for the invite.

R Blank 2:10
So this is this is such a great topic and I can’t wait to get into it. As a bit of a starting point. Can you please provide a bit about your background and how you ended up becoming a member of Parliament at the age of just 31?

Alex Agius Saliba 2:23
Yes, so I have been involved in politics and Malta relatively, for a very long time, I was basically the President and Secretary General of the Labour Party’s youth section for around 10 years, so very heavily involved in your activism. And from there. I took it up also a step. I took it up to another step. Basically, when I called us to the European Parliament elections, two and a half years ago by profession, I’m not a politician by profession. I’m a lawyer with a specialization and EU competition and Information Technology law. So I tried to bridge two passions, the passion for competition and digital law, and also politics because ultimately here in the European Parliament, it’s always a learning curve, and politics, especially when you focus on those subjects that really interests you, and basically are in line with your technical expertise.

R Blank 3:30
So that that feeds right into the the next question, which the topic we’re talking today focusing on is the right to disconnect. And it exists at the intersection of health and technology and human rights. And, and, and, and and just how technology and digital works. How did this area become a focus for you? How did you get into this sort of this particular intersection of topics?

Alex Agius Saliba 3:55
Yeah, very interesting question because in the European Parliament, I sit on two main legislative committees. I’m a full member in the internal market and Consumer Protection Committee. And also in the employments employment and social affairs committee and the internal market committee, I focus a lot of attention on digital issues. Basically, I was also a rapporteur for the European Parliament’s proposal on the Digital Services Act and the digital market sector. Basically the two proposals which will shape the internet policy for the European Union for the upcoming 1015 20 years, basically also revamping the E commerce directive. Very important, two very important pieces of legislation. And also in the employment and dog and Social Affairs Committee. I tried also to bridge employment rights in the The digital revolution that is also revolutionising the way that we work. So that’s why I focused a lot of attention on the right to disconnect. It. This was also a pledge that I did with the Maltese electorate before basically being elected in the European Parliament. This was this is also interesting during my house visits and more during the electoral campaign I was. And I can recall a number of visits, and people were telling us, but but we are working too much. My husband has come back from work, but he is not spending time with his family, he is continuing to reply to emails to text messages like this boy, the line between work time and family time is totally blurred, or an existent. And from there. I tried to push both locally, and also at EU level this idea of the right to disconnect which, to a certain extent, is already implemented for us, but not given as a fundamental right to be enjoyed by each and every worker. And from there, I started lobbying at EU Parliament level first. I lobbied internally within my political group, the socialist state Democrats group, and the right to disconnect became one of the priorities of the Socialists and Democrats within the employment and social affairs committee. Then we managed to hold this the particular committee in the European Parliament, which takes care of employment and social affairs issues. And it was accepted as a priority. And airport was decided to be drawn up within this committee and legislative report. And then I was entrusted with being the person responsible to lead the political negotiations within the European Parliament to come up with a proposal and the fully fledged piece of legislation. And basically, this is what we have done within within the ample quantity, basically taking up the limited experience that we have in a number of member states, when it comes to the implementation of the right to disconnect. And taking it a step further, basically, by being ambitious, to give this right, as a fundamental right, to be enjoyed by each and every worker who has contact, let’s put it like that with digital technologies. And today in the realities which we haven’t visited, and they haven’t envisaged when I started campaigning for the right to disconnect. I believe that the political push and the political visibility of this,

of this, of this idea of being constantly connected, limited when it comes to be enabled to disconnect became much more prominent during the COVID pandemic. So the idea of the right to disconnect didn’t come about because we were seeing an increase in flexure work and smart working, and teleworking during the pandemic. It was an idea that we agreed to move forward and push forward the legislative initiative, way before the start of the start of the pandemic. But the work that we have done on drafting, political negotiations came all during the pandemic. So I think that the pandemic in a way helped to make the political class in the European Parliament, but also those who will be the main stakeholders to implement the right to disconnect. It gave more political visibility, more political push on the idea of safeguarding this fundamental right for workers to rest to enjoy their family time in basically, in the digital environment.

R Blank 9:15
So Can Can you speak a little bit in more specific for for my listeners, because because a lot of my listeners are in the United States, and they have they’ve never heard of such a thing. So can you explain what is specifically the right to disconnect? What right does that grant? So basically,

Alex Agius Saliba 9:34
the right to disconnect can be described as the right of workers to switch off their digital devices after work without basically facing negative consequences for not responding to communications from the bosses from the colleagues or also from their clients. This is not a new idea. And already some spotlight as I said, He was put on France when they adopted a similar legislation way back in 2016. In France, the the only difference that exists from what we are proposing and what has already been implemented in France, there is that in France, the right to disconnect can be enjoyed only by those companies who employ more than 50 employees. In our case, the proposal is meant to be addressed to all workers who have interaction with digital technologies. What does this mean? This means that workers should not be worried or pressured, that they will suffer any negative repercussions because they do not engage in work related tasks, activities, to any type of electronic communications such as phone calls, emails, or other messages outside working time. And at the same time, employer should not require also workers to be both directly and also indirectly available or reachable outside their working time. And they should also provide workers with sufficient information, including a written statement setting out the right to disconnect basically how the right to disconnect has to be implemented. With the right to disconnect, we want to ensure that digital tools which are so fundamentally important, in this day and age, are used as an asset, benefiting both employers and also workers, while the adverse effect of these digital revolution that has revolutionized the way that we work, the negative effects will be mitigated after work, even if it is performed from the borders of your home. I believe that workers should be able to switch off their digital technologies without fearing any negative repercussions. And that is why, in the European Parliament, we have come up with this proposal. We have negotiated this proposal. And basically now, this proposal has been accepted from the plenary of the European Parliament officially, as the position the official proposal of the European Parliament when it comes to this fundamentally important piece of legislation.

R Blank 12:29
And how would a right like this be enforced in practice,

Alex Agius Saliba 12:35
so agreements, arranged by social partners at company level could be implemented both in hard and soft measures to apply the right to disconnect? I think one of the most fundamental, fundamentally important features in this piece of legislation is that we didn’t want to do away with the flexibility that still exists in this day and age. So first of all, we cannot and we couldn’t implement a one size fits all right to disconnect, that are different employment environments, which exists. And the right to disconnect has to be basically conditional upon the requirements of different employment, relationships, relationships, and different sectors. Within within our within our economies. There were those hardline approaches that were suggested to us during this negotiation process, for example, and Germany that are some hard measures, which, for example, include the shutting down of employees, internet connections, the shutting down of service servers, so that employees will be totally disconnected. And even for example, if their colleagues copy them in an email, which is sent after office hours, this would not disrupt their, their their leisure time, their free time, which is one of their fundamental rights. We didn’t opt for those hard measures. When it comes to the implementation of the right to disconnect and the proposed legislation that we moved forward. Basically, we’re focused more on a number of minimum requirements, which should be agreed by by the stakeholders, both by trade unions and employers or being vegan either by collective agreement. So some minimum requirements which should feature in the official relationship contracts of where or, or or or or other agreements which regulate the working relationship and number of minimum requirements that should be applicable and offer protection to each and every employee. So, the element of flexibility is there, because basically the right to disconnect is tailor made in accordance to these basic requirements. And also the minimum level of protection that employees cannot achieve without legislation could also be achieved by these minimum requirements, which basically have to be adorned with both by the employees and also by employers when it comes to creating these basic this basic contract right between the two parties.

R Blank 15:56
So, so you’ve spoken about the the need for for workers to be able to rest get are there, what are some of the other I don’t know, if you want to say symptoms or problems or issues that you’ve seen, and you’ve heard about individual’s health, that, that this right is intended to address.

Alex Agius Saliba 16:17
I think that first of all, this right should and must address the lack of boundaries that today exist between work and private time that as I said, has become totally blurred. The human cost is very high, when it comes to overwork. It varies from unpaid overtime, because basically, if you continue to work outside your regulated working hours, you are continuing to work without being compensated. And there are also a number of negative repercussions on the mental health of our workers. I am very active at European Parliament level when it comes to mental health issues. And in parallel with the COVID pandemic and the physical effects that the pandemic is putting on our societies. I believe that we are also facing another pandemic, a silent pandemic, which is a pandemic of mental health issues. I believe that this is being felt not only in Europe, but worldwide. And during the pandemic, we have also witnessed a social experiment happening in front of us, which I think a lot of us were not, we’re not realizing the effects of these changes that were happening even on our places of work. And I think that flexible work, telework smart working, was tested in time and time of emergency in a time where if these methods of employment, were inexistent, we would have ended up in a situation where much more workers would have lost their work. But at the same time, and this is solidified by a number of studies that were undertaken at European level. One of them is a Eurostat study, which has been created what has been ongoing during the pandemic. All these studies are showing that in cases where workers are not working from their traditional office spaces, they are teleworking, flexible, working work smart working, the reality of overworking Technostress exhaustion, is much more higher. So a fascinating number that came in came out from this study is that around 68% of workers who were teleworking, in contrast to turn around 30% of those workers who are basically working from their traditional office spaces. So, nearly double the amount of respondents who were teleworking are saying specifically that they are overworking. So,

and when I say overworking, I am saying that they are working more hours than the legal limits, both when it comes to minimum rest periods, and also maximum working hours. So these are leaving a lot of effects on our workforce, from isolation to fatigue, to depression, burnouts, muscular, or eye illnesses. And that is why Although directed disconnect was important before the pandemic, it is it has become much more important to act as soon as possible, even during and post pandemic, because the world of work will definitely continue to change and evolve, even during the pandemic, we will never go back to the way that we were before the pandemic struck us. So teleworking, flexible working, smart working, although it will not be competitive to the, to the amount that we had when the pandemic was in its peak. And basically, we had the restrictions all over and people couldn’t get out of their homes, people couldn’t work in their office spaces. We won’t go there immediately after the pandemic, but the numbers of teleworkers, Flexi workers and smart workers will continue to rise when compared to the pre pandemic numbers. Therefore, we have to be prepared, we have to be prepared so that basically we can reduce as much as possible, the negative effects that digitalization and the digital revolution has basically left on our workplaces.

R Blank 21:19
So thank you for that. So you’ve you’ve you’ve painted the picture of the scope of of the problem, and of just being over connected. And I understand why this is something that we need to do something about. But why do you believe that disconnecting is a human right, that seems to put it at a very high level of, of, of the way that that we as society and you as a legislator, view this this right, that it is a human right? What makes this a human right?

Stephanie Warner 21:56

Alex Agius Saliba 21:58
if you look at the fundamental rights that our forefathers have fought so hard for, not only at European level, but also in other continents, you will find some basic fundamental rights, basic rights such as the right to rest, the maximum working hours, and unfortunately, and that is why we should consider the right to disconnect as a fundamental right within the European Union is because in this day and age, where digital technologies are so prevalent in our lives, where digital technologies that have basically revolutionized the way that we work, we believe that we should not experience a difference of rights between the offline and the online world. Because basically, overwork is encroaching on these fundamental workers rights, fair working conditions, health and safety at work, work life balance, gender equality, the excessive use of technological devices can aggravate as I said, the phenomenon of isolation, anxiety, depression, burnouts, techno addiction, sleep disorders, and also muscular, muscular muscular skeletal disorders. And that is why this right should be should be treated as a fundamental right, and that is why the parliament, European Parliament, is considering the right to disconnect to be a fundamental right, because that is an integral part of the new working patterns in the new digital age. And that is why the slide should be seen as an important social policy instrument that you will have to ensure the protection of workers rights.

R Blank 23:58
So often, in my experience, issues that are at the intersection of health and technology can be difficult to explain and can also face sort of a reflex opposition from people. Have you found this policy to be relatively easy to explain to people or have you encountered any difficulty in expressing the issues or received opposition?

Alex Agius Saliba 24:24
Yeah, when it comes to explaining the right to disconnect and explaining why it is important to have the right to disconnect, I don’t think that it was very difficult, because people relate and especially politicians in the European Parliament relate to issues of overstress always being connected, because ultimately, we are also feeling this this this Technostress, this, this culture of always being connected. Our biggest challenge was at European Parliament level because there were a lot of a number of quarters which were totally innocent. of having a commendation from the European Parliament on the importance of disconnecting, outlining the fundamental principles when it comes to the right to disconnect. But when we came to proposing a fully fledged piece of legislation, yes, there was and there is still quiet, and a bit of opposition, on the right to disconnect, which in my opinion sometimes comes also from the fear of the unknown, or maybe the fear to lose the possibilities to explore workers productivity or even other management practices, which are beneficial to employers. I think that during the pandemic, many big employers have realized the benefits of teleworking and have announced that this will be also implemented and practiced even post pandemic and the flexibility that teleworking has provided to employers and employees are not to be ignored. And I guess that the opposition comes from the unknown, like unknown idea that the new rules would, and can can can can reduce this flexibility that we have today. Nevertheless, I have always said that, and I am a firm believer of the principle that what is illegal offline should also be illegal online. And the same principle is fully applicable yet in the discussion on the right to disconnect. If there are rules on what is allowed for a worker and the physical world, it is only obvious to me that the same rules should be created, and the digital ecosystem. For example, in the physical world, if you are working, if your working day consists of eight hours and you are paid for those hours, then if you work more than two, I paid for additional work within district maximum limitations to ensure the balance of work life as well as the health and safety of our workers and the digital world. This it is often very difficult to enforce these fundamental rules, digital tools have basically opened the door to evade existing rights and protection for workers. And unless we take actions actions to adopt an appropriately good framework, I am afraid that workers will be more vulnerable and more exposed exposed to all kinds of gray digital practices that are not forbidden. But also shouldn’t be allowed either simply because a worker have left the traditional office space and they are at home. But they have received an email or a message from their bosses or colleagues to watch days to which they feel obliged to reply will not make it okay, or justify that this is just happening in the digital world. So we can close an eye and say that the for our fundamental rights have not been disrespected. So it’s really important for us to bridge this divide that we have today, between the offline and the online rely realities. The basic digitalization has created when it comes to the world of Web. That is why the right to disconnect is so fundamentally important to be implemented as soon as possible.

R Blank 28:42
So earlier in our conversation, you mentioned a company in Germany that that forced off the email servers at certain times and turned them on again the next day, I believe, maybe you’re talking about something else. But I believe Volkswagen implements

Alex Agius Saliba 28:58
this. Yes, yeah.

R Blank 29:00
So that leads me to wonder, you know, because you mentioned some opposition that you’re getting in resistance to change. And I understand that. How do How are large employers reacting to the prospect of this legislation? Do they oppose it? Or do they see that? You know, we’re reducing burnout and overload is actually beneficial for them? Or how are large employers reacting?

Alex Agius Saliba 29:25
If you look at what happened a couple of weeks before we took the vote in the plenary of the European Parliament on the right to disconnect. Basically everyone was, as I said, previously, everyone was in favor of the idea of the right to disconnect. But when it came to the employer association at yo Levin, they campaigned heavily to have the resolution text which is approved. Therefore, the concept and the reason that why we need the right to disconnect remain there and voted favor by the European Parliament, but their biggest fear, the fear of the unknown that I have recalled previously, was to have a legislation. So the big employers and also employers associations at the EU level, were more afraid to have this right to disconnect implemented by legislation, they were much more in favor to have soft club to have the implementation being affected by by the will of employers. And this is something which I think we’ll dilute the concept of the right to disconnect being a fundamental right. As I said, we need to maintain the level of flexibility when it comes to different working methods, different working places, which require different methods to apply the right to disconnect. But the fundamental concepts, the minimum requirements, that we are enlisting in article five of the directive that we have, basically approved from the European Parliament, they should be implemented, implemented in an unequivocal way implemented in a heart in a harmonized way, and be enjoyed by each and every American. To achieve that result. We must have uniform application by having a piece of legislation which definitely as being drafted by the European Parliament will not dilute the concept of flexibility, which is so important to have a realistic chance of implementing right to disconnect.

R Blank 31:42
So yeah, the question of standardization leads me to another question, right. You mentioned that this right exists in France, I understand. It also exists in Italy and Ireland, and that Portugal just actually implemented this as well. What would this right passing at the level of the EU Parliament so EU wide? What would it do to the existing legislation in these countries?

Alex Agius Saliba 32:09
So if you look at the right to disconnect, and what do we have at hand today? So we have the precursor for the right to disconnect in Europe, which is France, which had legislation being enacted way back in 20, and 16, after a court ruling in the in the Constitutional Tribunal. And they award the right to disconnect only to a limited number of employees, those companies who employ more than 50 employees, we have a similar proposal being discussed to be implemented in Belgium, we have the right to disconnect the being granted to a very limited number of workers and attorney, those employees who fall under the definition of smart workers, then we have seen very positive developments happening also after we approved our proposal and legislation in the EP. First we had the example of Ireland and Ireland, we had a very correct, let’s put it like that implementation of the right to disconnect on the proposal that we have approved in the European Parliament. We had also very interesting developments and discussions happening in another in a good number of member states. For example, in my member state Malta, we had the implementation of the right to disconnect for all civil service employees, which amounted to a boot partition of workers in Malta. And we are still discussing the implementation of the right to disconnect in the private sector. And in Portugal, recently, we have seen another great victory and also a game changer for workers and the right to disconnect. Portugal basically has recently banned the bosses from from contacting their employees outside of their working hours. Basically, under these new laws, employers will not face sanctions if they employers will now face sanctions if they text phone or email workers when they are off the clock. And for me, this is a very important victory that strengthens the call for the right to disconnect at European level. The the push now that we need at the EU level is to implement this right in a fundamental way in a way that it is enjoyed. In the same way for all workers throughout throughout you would oppose it doesn’t make sense that workers are treated differently in accordance to from the from where they are coming. So this is And ultimately, this is why the European system is such a bad system when it comes to the implementation of directives. Because when we have directives, we can implement fundamental rights minimum rights in a harmonized way. So workers in Portugal will not be treated in a less advantageous way than workers in France or workers in Malta. That’s why we need this directive to be implemented as soon as possible. And that is why we are being very vocal with the European Commission so that it sets the ball rolling, because now the ball is in the commissioner’s court to start discussions with stakeholders representing employees and employers at Union level so that we can have a piece of legislation being proposed by the European Commission as soon as possible, because because we cannot afford to lose more time.

R Blank 36:05
So yeah, what does as soon as possible realistically mean in the in the context of parliamentary workings? When could could could this become law

Alex Agius Saliba 36:13
in the context of the European Parliament, so the process in the European Parliament now as an official proposal, it’s finished. The European Parliament has formally asked now the European permission to act, bring social partners on the table as soon as possible. There isn’t. There isn’t restriction when it comes to timing for the European Commission, European Commission should and must act as soon as possible by initiating social dialogue between European representatives have employees and employers so that a proposal then could start to be discussed at trialog level between the European Parliament Council and commission, our ambition is to have a piece of legislation approved before the end of this mandate, therefore, in two and a half years time, this is the ambition of the European Parliament. This is the request of the European Parliament. But as I said, the ball now was in the Commission’s court. So it depends on when the commission will.

R Blank 37:24
Okay. And if the action isn’t taken within two and a half years, does just the process sort of reset, or how does that work?

Alex Agius Saliba 37:32
No, the proposal now was there and it is approved. It totally depends on the European permission to come up with the proposal. It’s not an issue that because we haven’t started the official legislative process yet. So it’s not a it’s not an issue that we are restarting. I spoke about the two and a half year deadline, that the basically is our ambition as a European Parliament, basically, to conclude this right before the end of the legislature. That is our ambition. And we will continue to push on the European Council and on the commission, Commissioner responsible Nicola Schmidt to act as soon as possible to have this right enjoyed by workers in this in this in this precarious time that we are living today.

R Blank 38:23
So in all the all the reading I’ve done on this, it seems to be a largely European initiative, all the countries where I’m seeing it happen, although I have I did read that they’re considering similar regulations in Ontario, Canada are but everyone I talked to, in the United States about this is just shocked to learn that this is even a thing that could exist. Are you in communication or aware of anyone in the United States who may be interested in pursuing similar regulations?

Alex Agius Saliba 38:59
To be totally honest, we never had communication with stakeholders in the US when it comes to the to the to the to the right to disconnect. I had in the past in the past months, a lot of conversations on other legislations that we were working on the Digital Services Act, digital markets Act, which will target the big tech companies basically, a lot of discussions or so because I am an upward there on the universal charger, which again will also affect an number of companies in the US which target European consumers but I’m being totally honest when it comes to the I like to disconnect. I saw a number of reports and the news articles which were written after our proposal was approved in the European Parliament but I haven’t had a discussion, dialogue clear with stakeholders or people who are interested in us on the implementation of an idea of the right to disconnect in the US. But again, I think that this should not be a European right. It should be a right which should be enjoyed by workers throughout throughout throughout the world also in other continents because workers should and must enjoy their fundamental rights, the rights that we take for granted in the in the offline world. They should also be fully enjoyed in the online world and the digital ecosystem.

R Blank 40:37
No, totally, totally agreed. Before we finish up I, you mentioned your work on the the common charger law. This is another another initiative where when I talked to Americans about this, they’re just shocked, like something like this is even possible. Could you just speak a little bit about what the common charger law is and why that issue is of importance to you as well?

Alex Agius Saliba 41:02
Yeah, basically, the European Parliament and its internal market and Consumer Protection Committee have been asking and requesting a proposal for a common charger and the solution for common charger over the last decade, continuously calling on the commission to act. The legislative proposal was finally tabled by the European Commission on the 23rd of September of this year, and that will be discussed in the committee

R Blank 41:34
as the center, so may just stepping back even one step before that, can you can you speak to what the common charter law actually is?

Alex Agius Saliba 41:42
Yes. So basically, when we’re speaking of the universal charge, and what we have on the table today is that basically we are pushing forward the idea of having a universal port, charging port for small and medium sized electronic equipment. So this proposal is not only applicable for smartphones, but it’s applicable for tablets, headphones, gaming consoles, and also digital commerce. So we are we are basically using a technology which has been in existence for more than 10 years now. So an advanced and advanced technology, the USB type C port, by amending and revising the radio equipment directive, therefore the raison d’etre. Why do we need this proposal? We need this proposal, first of all, because ultimately, although we had an informal agreement, and the framework agreement, which was not implemented by legislation 10 years ago, ultimately, this this informal agreement led for the reduction from 33 different charges that we had charging cables that we had on in the internal market for smartphones, they were reduced to three different charger charges and charging ports today, but still, the biggest setback is when proprietary rights are used by companies basically to continue to put into market specific particular charges for their products. This is creating a lot of issues for consumers. Because ultimately, and this is this is really interesting, we have a situation whereby consumers are paying for bundled charges, which they don’t need. A recent survey, which was part of the impact assessment of this proposal shows that one in three chargers for smartphones is never it’s not even used by consumers. So, this is this is leading to the creation of a lot of useless electronic waste. This is also depleting natural resources which are needed for the creation of these chargers, which ultimately end up in a particular cupboard in our in our household, which is full of different charges, which basically we don’t need and ultimately this proposal will reduce the number of charges in the market will also help to to make the life of consumers much more easy because it will it will create one common charger with with with with with specific, a specific specification the USB type C port for All these products that I mentioned, and it will reduce costs, because of unbundling and giving the option to choose to buy an electronic equipment bundled with a charge or not. So, consumers will will have the option to spend less. And also it will help our environment by reducing electronic waste because ultimately, we will have less chargers in the market. We can achieve this by giving more information to consumers, for example, by explaining the compatibility of these chargers, the charging speed of these chargers, but, but ultimately this will lead to reduction of costs, and also reduction of around 11,000 tonnes of waste from these charges that we are creating every year. Wow. Wow, that

R Blank 46:05
11,000 tonnes it’s amazing the scope of these issues. As a final question. Once you’re successful with the right to disconnect, are there are there other initiatives you’d like to pursue related to issues of health and technology?

Alex Agius Saliba 46:20
Yes, I think I think that the next step forward, which is which works and piloted in tandem with the right to disconnect is also division of teleworking directive. As I said, our workforce is moving more further apart further away from traditional office spaces. Therefore I believe that teleworking legislation should be reflective of these changes so that those persons who are teleworking first of all, are giving the right to choose if they wish, to telework or not, because not each and every worker wishes to for example, telework and work from home every day. But at the same time, other rights are given such as when it comes to electricity bills, when it comes to equipment, furniture, ergonomic equipment, so that we will bridge the gap and the negative effects that basically teleworking can also create in the in the in the working environment, basically updating our rules to be reflective of these changes that the pandemic has created and the shift that we’ll continue to see. Also, when it comes to teleworking, Flexi working and smart working

R Blank 47:49
well, well, Alex, I really want to thank you first, for taking the time to come visit the healthier tech podcast and educate my listeners. But more importantly, for your really important work spearheading the effort to help make technology safer for consumers. It’s really refreshing for me, and I know, for my listeners, to hear directly from a politician and policymaker working on these core issues that we all encounter every day, but are ignored by so many others. And, and you know, it doesn’t really need to be said, but you’re so young, I can’t wait to see what you will accomplish across your very promising career. I really want to thank you.

Alex Agius Saliba 48:28
Thanks to you. And thanks for this opportunity also to discuss these issues. Also. With us listeners, it’s really important for us also to engage with, with listeners also, not only in the EU, but also in other continents. So again, thanks Caltech for giving me this opportunity. I really appreciate it.

R Blank 48:52
Wow, well, as always, I am joined here by my co host, Stephanie. That was that was posts really interesting. What did you think?

Stephanie Warner 49:00
I yeah, I mean, I My mind is blown. Honestly, I really appreciate hearing these topics, because they’re not things as you brought up in the interview. They’re just not things that we in the United States think about it and they’re really important. And I there’s one quote and I’m gonna, you know, care quote, I guess, but there’s one quote that he said that I wrote down, what is illegal in the real world should be illegal in the digital world. And I think that that sums up the entire, like, every effort and how we need to be framing are how we think about employment and in the digital world and the digital revolution. Yeah, no,

R Blank 49:41
no, that’s funny. That’s the exact quote that I pulled that I wrote down while the interview was happening. I wrote it down a little differently. What is illegal offline should also be illegal online. And it is, it is. It’s so simple, and it’s so obvious, and yet it’s so him, just not the case. People get away with things online all the time that aren’t possible offline and that aren’t even legal offline. And we just kind of accept it. And he’s right. If you’re working eight hours, and then you leave work, you can’t be forced to work for eight hours without pay. But for some reason, you’re you’re allowed to be forced to check your email, or to respond to a text message. And so yeah, no, that was the exact quote that I pulled out. That’s funny that you, we did the same one.

Stephanie Warner 50:33
Yeah, it really does encapsulate the effort. So well, and as I said, how we should look at things moving forward, you know it because this stuff is really important as the, you know, move towards working at home becomes more and more accepted, not just because of the pandemic, but due to, you know, here in the States, at least, it is, you know, mostly because of the pandemic, that employers are realizing people want to work from home. And this stuff is really important to talk about. I also appreciate his next moves, which, you know, he basically, you know, updating workers rights due to teleworking, thinking about, you know, how do employers compensate electric bills, ergonomic furniture, these are things that, you know, are all very new here in the United States. And they’re really important. Yeah,

R Blank 51:27
no. And the one other thing I’ll say, is, you know, because in the United States this, this issue is barely even talked about, and to realize that in Europe, there is a significant contingent that not only recognizes and talks about this problem, but views it as a human right. That is, is just such a different perspective. And I just, I was really, really thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Alex and I hope, hope the listeners appreciated that insight as well.

Stephanie Warner 52:02
Yeah, absolutely. It was, it was a mind blowing conversation. And I’m really, really happy that we we had such a great guest on to discuss these top these important topics.

R Blank 52:18
Well, that does it for today’s episode. Remember, if you like this show, and want to hear more, please subscribe the healthier tech podcast available on all major podcasting platforms. And if you have a moment, please also leave a review. Reviews are really critical to help more people find this podcast and learn about the important and undercover topics that we discuss. Also, you can learn more and sign up for our mailing list to get notified when we have new interviews, webinars, ebooks and sales at shield your body.com you can also just click that link in the show notes. While you’re there at shield your body calm you can check out our world class catalog of laboratory tested EMF and 5g protection products. Don’t forget to use promo code pod to save 15% On your first order from shield your body comm with free shipping throughout North America and Europe. Until next time, I’m R blank. And I want to thank you so much for tuning into the healthier tech podcast. Always remember to shield your body

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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R Blank

R Blank

R Blank is the founder of Healthier Tech and the host of “The Healthier Tech Podcast”, available iTunes, Spotify and all major podcasting platforms.

R has a long background in technology. Previously, R ran a software engineering firm in Los Angeles, producing enterprise-level solutions for blue chip clients including Medtronic, Apple, NBC, Toyota, Disney, Microsoft, the NFL, Ford, IKEA and Mattel.

In the past, he served on the faculty at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering where he taught software engineering, as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He has spoken at technology conferences around the world, including in the US, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and he is the co-author of “AdvancED Flex Development” from Apress.

He has an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and received his bachelor’s degree, with honors, from Columbia University. He has also studied at Cambridge University in the UK; the University of Salamanca in Spain; and the Institute of Foreign Languages in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

Connect with R on LinkedIn.

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