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UNI Global Union General Secretary, Christy Hoffman said we should reject the “horror show” hype which predicts that technology will cause a collapse in employment. 

She reported in a panel at the recent ITUC Congress that digital technology has been introduced – in all of its varieties-  in every UNI sector.  Despite vast changes,  overall, there has job growth in every sector, with the exception of finance.  Employment still growing even in commerce, despite the fact that Amazon and other forms of ecommerce  are on the heels of the traditional employers. 

But the changes for workers in the nature of the work and the quality of the jobs, along with  the extent of monitoring, are coming at a steady pace.  This can range from the commerce worker who functions more as a sales advisor, or the cleaner who only cleans those parts of the building which have been used the previous day.  We have upskilled call center workers who now are trained to answer sophisticated questions which are not answerable by AI.”

“The changes in the nature of the work has also driven a demand from employers in some cases for fewer guaranteed hours, work during days and times which were previously off-limits, more outsourcing and so called flexible forms of contracting,” she said.

Through all of this, the workers represented by UNI affiliates are the lucky ones.  They have the possibility of a just transition.  

“Unions are able to bargain with the employers to soften the blow of harsh changes, to guarantee bargaining before changes are implemented and win minimum scheduling. These are the fights we see today in the bargaining arena,  not necessarily  fights for higher wages.   Just this week an agreement in European social dialogue was signed in which the banks agree to avoid involuntary redundancies resulting from the impact of jobs reduction,” said Hoffman.

“But In far too many countries,   bargaining power has been weakened or does not exist for workers in our sectors.  This is  our key challenge.  And we should not underestimate the difficulty of bargaining in an environment where the employers feel the pressure from Amazon as a disruptor.  

“Finally, we must not let employers hide behind the cloak of digitalization as an excuse to erode the employment relationship and diminish the quality of jobs,” Hoffman concluded.

UNI General Secretary, Christy Hoffman also took part in a live talk show panel on the Future World of Work, along with the General Secretary of IndustriALL, Valter Sanches and the General Secretary of the ITF, Steve Cotton. See the panel discussion here https://congress2018.ituc-csi.org/congress-live-panel-debate-future?lang=en

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