Digitalisation can be shaped! Op-ed for FES

Digitalisation can be shaped! Op-ed for FES

DIgitalisation can be shaped and unions have a key role in doing that. Listing 4 key demands, this op-ed written by UNI for FES Info 02/2018 alerts us to the urgency of acting now! Article in German!

UNI Global Union was asked to write a debate article for FES Info listing some of our core demands for the future of work. Just published and available here in German only on page 8, the op-ed lists four of our core policies.

Here follows a shortened English version of the article:

We must all unite to demand that the future world of work is transparent, fair and offers all workers an opportunity to thrive

Christina Colclough, UNI

The Urgency of Now – shaping the future world of work

We must ask ourselves: What future do we want? And from there, we must have the courage to seek solutions and demand policy changes so artificial intelligence, algorithms, data and robots serve the interests of people and planet above everything else.

Work is work! Labour is not a commodity valued by its unit price alone. As digitalisation is spurring the transition to a global service economy, with global labour markets, we must all unite to demand that the future world of work is transparent, fair and offers all workers an opportunity to thrive.

To shape the digital future, the union voice must be heard loud and clear and it must be heard now! UNI Global Union is working with affiliates and partners on a number of key priorities, four of which are:

  • Job security
  • Universal social protection
  • Workers’ data rights
  • Beyond GDP

Job security

Companies must have a responsibility towards their current and future workers. They must welcome apprenticeships, and commit to training and retraining of their workers, so they can move into new jobs with new skills. Just because some new technology can be introduced doesn’t mean it has to – the long-term employability of workers must be key to a sustainable future. We must demand that all workers, no matter who they work for and in what type of work, have the universal right and universal access to re- and upskilling. We must demand that companies contribute to this, and that new systems are put in place, so all workers, both those in and out of work, can re- and upskill.

Universal social protection

Precarious work, such as bogus self-employment, is on the rise leaving workers bearing the brunt of market, yet with few, if any, social and fundamental rights. We cannot accept this! We must demand that all workers, in all forms of work, have the same social and fundamental rights. The right to organise, the right to social protection, the right to sick pay and holiday pay, the right to collective bargaining, the right to pension, parental leave and all of the benefits unions have fought for for generations. Work is work! Our institutions must change to reward that.

Workers’ Data Rights

Except for several European countries, no other country in the entire world has laws or regulation in place on workers’ data rights. As management-by-algorithm is becoming more common, as data is being used in recruitment, promotion, discipling or firing processes, workers must demand access to, control over, and insight into the data used by companies. UNI has issued a Charter on Workers’ Data Rights, and is negotiating with a number of MNCs to get these rights into global agreements. We all need to raise awareness to this, and to prevent that data takes the human out of human resources.

Beyond GDP

For many years now, productivity measured as efficiency, has been used as a measure of corporate or national success. Yet, the dire consequences of this have been systematically ignored. Income and wealth inequality is on the rise, precarious work is on the rise, the buying power of large groups of workers is in decline, young workers are finding it difficult to get a foothold into the labour market and workers down through the supply chains are increasingly exploited. It is time we move Beyond GDP and begin to measure success using far more, sustainable and long-term criteria. Just think how we could change the logic of the market if companies and countries were penalised for short-termism in the name of productivity? Lets demand that social cohesion, diversity, spirituality and faith, environmental concerns, union recognition and a fair redistributive tax system are measures of success.

Together we can shape the future. And we must start now.