Connecting to Win: UNI ICTS’s world conference focuses on advancing workers’ rights in a new world of work
Under the banner of “Connecting to Win,” more than 300 union activists from nearly 70 countries kicked off the UNI Information, Communications, Technology, and Services (ICTS) world conference today in Kuala Lumpur.
The global gathering will tackle technology’s evolving impact on ICTS jobs and the need for unions to proactively ensure that the new world of work works for everyone.
A key focus of the conference is organizing, especially in IT and outsourced work, a point underscored by UNI General Secretary Christy Hoffman.
“Five years ago, we would have said we shouldn’t ignore IT companies, but it is hard to help IT workers organize. Now, we are seeing successes in Romania, South Korea, in Malaysia, and in the United States workers are on fire,” General Secretary Hoffman said. “We are seeing a wave of worker organizing in that industry.”
She continued, “Despite predictions of contact center work disappearing, the outsourcing sector continues to grow, and our work in this area, with companies like Teleperformance, is just beginning.”
The conference opening also included UNI ICTS’s first-ever excellence in organizing award. The honored unions were the Grameenphone Employees Union (GPEU) from Bangladesh, who recently won union recognition after seven years of struggle; Sindicatul IT Timisoara (SITT) in Romania for a world-class organizing program in the information technology sector; and SITRATEL-FEDOTRAZONAS in the Dominican Republic, for their successful three-year struggle to organize at Teleperformance.
In a show of local hospitality, participants were greeted by a beautiful display of traditional Malaysian dance and a warm welcome by Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia Y.Bhg. Dato' Suriani Binti Dato' Ahmad, who praised ICTS unions for helping “set fair terms for the employees who are the engine for the world’s communications economy.”
Making those terms fairer and the playing field more level will are key tasks for unions as they face new technology.
“Digitalization and artificial intelligence are no longer the future of work, they are our present,” said Andy Kerr, UNI ICTS World President and Deputy General Secretary of CWU (UK). “At this critical time, we are here to celebrate our victories, to share the lessons we’ve learned, and to build a strategy of success for the next four years. We will make sure that workers across our sector can secure their rights through organizing, collective bargaining, and social dialog.”
In-depth discussions over the next three days will include examinations of ongoing global efforts to help contact workers win their rights at Teleperformance and beyond, global agreements that have broken new ground regarding digitalization, unions in IT, and the need for international solidarity and strategy to counterbalance the growing power of multinationals.
“We are standing at a historic turning point. The fourth industrial revolution is changing our daily lives and how we work at a rapid pace. Above all, technology must be a tool to bring happiness and justice,” said Brother Minao Noda, President of UNI Apro. “It is an imminent challenge for us to establish global rules and standards for new technology and put the brakes on growing inequality.”
UNI ICTS will also elect its leadership for the next four years.