Accueil » 55-4 ( 2000) » Nouvelles technologies et la télésubordination du salarié

Nouvelles technologies et la télésubordination du salarié

Fernand Morin


Les technologies d'information et de communication (TIC) permettent, incitent ou forcent les entreprises à modifier leurs processus de gestion et de contrôle. Par voie de conséquence, la relation de travail et les conditions d'exécution du travail en sont métamorphosées. Pouvons-nous affirmer que ces techniques nouvelles confèrent vraiment au salarié une plus grande autonomie professionnelle au-delà des premières apparences ? L'absence du regard indiscret d'un contremaître ou d'un directeur de service ne saurait suffire pour répondre à cette question puisque les TIC permettent de suivre le salarié comme s'ils 'agissait de son ombre. Dès lors, une deuxième question peut être valablement posée : ces TIC constitueraient-ils des nouveaux instruments d'asservissement ? La réponse peut dépendre aussi de la qualité des gestionnaires selon qu'ils savent utiliser ces données informatisées pour ce qu'elles sont et sans plus... En d'autres termes, les indicateurs de performance que procurent les TIC ne peuvent servir de substituts au jugement toujours essentiel du gestionnaire.


Do new information and communication technologies make work less hard for employees and give them more freedom? This article examines whether these information and communication technologies help to liberate workers or whether they have the opposite effect. To better understand the effects of these technologies on work relations, it is important to consider to what extent the 20th century conceptual model of an "employee" is gradually becoming outdated in firms which organize their internal work processes on the basis of this new equipment. Thus, robotics and telematics are combined in a complex production process but their respective impact on the individual employee can be quite different. These external forces affect the individual employee in a much more direct and personal way than the simple constraints arising from technical means of production.

The flexibility sought by the firm translates into a dual requirement for modem workers in terms of performance: rapid development of their professional autonomy (being able to work without a safety net) and continuous increases in their job mobility. While it is unquestionable that this digital technological "revolution" is increasing the supply of skilled jobs, it is also important to know the price that is, or can be, required from current workers.

It is true that these memorized and processed data help avoid long debates about who did what, when and how. Nobody can justifiably deny these material and external facts. Moreover, this implies a retrieval of only selected data and not of all the elements of operations carried out by the employee. It goes without saying that a memory that retains such elements is worth ten times more than the memory of a manager, but the latter's valid and responsible judgement is still needed to provide an overall and human appreciation of the work performed by the same employee. Thus, can a firm's human resources manager, in all honesty, be satisfied with the data and rely on this Computing "subcontractor," forgetting that, in this case, the data processed are neither complete nor perfect. Owing to information and communication technologies, employees are always near regardless of their geographical location on any given day. Thus, at least for employees, absence from and presence at work no longer have the same meaning nor the same impact. Teleworkers, in the broad sense of the word, might organize their own work schedule, taking into account their personal constraints and the times of the day when they are at their best physically and mentally and have the optimal environmental conditions to carry out the work. But, is this really the case? In strict legal terms, are these teleworkers who have no roots and no fixed location on the employer's premises still employees? In such circumstances, have they acquired such a degree of autonomy that their legal status might be changed?

Even though these teleworkers are judicially and legislatively described as employees, several current raies in employment-related laws would be hard to apply to them. The magnetic badge allows for tight and effective management of staff circulation within the establishment. Entries and exits made using the magnetic badge are thus memorized and processed (time, length of time and place, etc.). Thus, there is data on who circulates where, when, for how long and how many times per day, etc. This by-product of the electronic control of access routes thus makes it possible to track the entire staff and even to establish, at the precise time, an accurate accounting statement of the time spent near the work station and the time when the employee may be elsewhere... This gives rise to another question: should this employee not have a private "protective bubble" that guarantees him or her a degree of privacy, even inside the establishment? To what extent can an individual's actions be monitored so closely?

The risk of a few blunders or the existence of a doubt about embezzlement by certain employees cannot justify a Kafkaesque surveillance of all employees, everywhere and all the time. Of course, there is no single, valid answer to any of these issues raised by the presence of information and communication technologies. Whatever the case may be, this "black eye" makes the employee highly visible to others, at the cost of abandoning his or her privacy, self-respect and perhaps, dignity. Employees are made so visible and transparent that they are "laid bare," or at least this is how they may feel and thus may be a source of distress. While not denying the efficiency of information and communication technologies, we should not be less vigilant under their blinding effects. Who knows what logic and model the authors of this software have used to obtain these results? It seems that a responsible manager should be cautious and entertain a systematic doubt so that this hidden technological subcontracting does not replace the necessary analysis of a set of qualitative and contextual data that are not dealt with at all by these new technologies.


Las tecnologias de information y de comunicacion (TIC) permiten, incitan o fuerzan las empresas a modificar sus respectivos procesos de gestion y de control, ocasionando la metamorfosis de la relation de trabajo y de las condiciones de ejecucion del trabajo. Mas alla de la primeras apariencias, podemos afirmar que estas nuevas tecnicas confieren verdaderamente una mas amplia autonomia profesional al asalariado. La ausencia de la mirada indiscreta de un mandamaz o de un director de servicio no es suficiente como respuesta, puesto que las TIC permiten un seguimiento del asalariado como si uno fuese su sombra. Una segunda pregunta puede ser, entonces, validamente planteada : podrian estas TIC constituir en realidad nuevos instrumentos de sumision ?

La respuesta puede depender también de la cualidad de los gerentes, segun que ellos sepan utilizar las informaciones computarizadas exclusivamente por lo que ellas son en si mismas. En otros términos, los indicadores de rendimiento que procuran las TIC no pueden servir para substituir el juicio personal del gerente que sigue siendo esencial.