Workers and unions have always had to deal with technological change. Often, under the guise of enhanced productivity, processes like increased automation and lean production have meant job losses and/or outsourcing of labour to less protected and often underpaid contractors rather than up-skilling of the existing workforce. The digital transformation of manufacturing is especially challenging because the pace of technological change has been accelerated and because digitalisation provides management with increased possibilities to introduce fundamental changes in the production process and the organisation of work.
At the same time, manufacturing has traditionally provided good jobs and the possibility of middle-class livelihoods to semi-skilled and even unskilled workers. Consequently, manufacturing is a traditional union stronghold and workers and unions have power resources at their disposal to influence the pace and direction of the transformation processes. In a way, the challenge of Industry 4.0 has been an opportunity for trade unions to reestablish their relevance and may have the potential to vitalise organised labour.
This online debate is the 4th session of the ongoing «Trade Unions in Transformation 4.0» debate series and engages with these questions and challenges. Based on evidence from the TUiT 4.0 project as well as from case studies from Germany and Brasil, we will explore how unions have shaped technological change both on the shopfloor and in political debates. Moreover, we will discuss what role transnational strategies play for assuring that trade unions will remain relevant in the shaping of technological changes in the workplace.
The event will be translated simultaneously in English/French/Portuguese/Spanish/German Live-Stream
Introduction and overview:
Moderators: Thomas Greven, FES, Stefan Schmalz, FU Berlin & Hugo Dias, UNICAMP
We look forward to welcoming you! Live-Stream
No time to read the whole study from Germany? Then take time to read the short version: In English ¿No tienes tiempo para leer todo el estudio? Ahorra tiempo y mantente informado con este resumen: En español Pas le temps de lire toute l'étude ? Prenez ensuite le temps de lire le résumé En français
No time to read the whole study from Brazil? Then take time to read the short version: In English ¿No tienes tiempo para leer todo el estudio? Ahorra tiempo y mantente informado con este resumen: En español
«Trade Unions in Transformation 4.0» is a FES-initiated project that aims to understand workers’ agency in digital capitalism. This project examines how trade unions and new organizations of workers build workers’ power to confront and shape the emerging new world of work in which capital uses digital technology to re-organize the production process and increasingly imposes ultra-flexible, precarious work models. FES aims to contribute to workers’ and trade unions’ reflections and strategies and offers cooperation for union transformation.
Subsequent sessions will explore how workers and unions shape transformations in industry, how tech workers start to become an exciting player in the labour movement, how transport workers resist the restructuring of their sector by platforms and what new tools and apps unions develop to increase their power in the digital economy.