UNI GS to ILO: “Digital & Climate Just Transition a ‘must’ for workers”

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings addressed the 106th International Labour Conference at the ILO this week. Jennings gave his full support to the ILO Green Centenary Initiative. Earlier the ILO Director General, Guy Ryder had emphasised how climate change and the digital revolution would be the twin drivers of change in the future world of work (FWOW). The UNI GS said that a just transition was a ‘must’ to overcome these two profound challenges and confirmed UNI’s commitment to making it happen in such a way that workers benefited from, rather than being penalised by, the FWOW.

“UNI cannot accept a new world of work where employers cynically claim they have no responsibility to people. Workers forced to dive off a digital platform into a pool of job and social insecurity. We cannot leave new workers stranded without rights or leave workers behind in industries in climate transformation.

“In a fragmented world of work, wage and social justice through sector-wide collective bargaining is essential. ILO standards must apply to all workers from the gig economy to the world of professional sport where we look forward to the new ILO sectoral initiative.

The Big 6 digital giants have much to gain from an ILO sector social dialogue. Our unions are building in the digital world. I am happy to report that today we approach 1000 new members in ATOS, Romania.”

The UNI GS addressed the challenges presented by the new wave of AI and urged that rules were laid down now to make sure that humans stay in control  in the future. He made special reference to ILO Conventions 87 & 98, the right to organise and the right to collective bargaining

“Let’s boost machine intelligence with a new algorithm – AI 8798 and apply it throughout the supply chain.”

Jennings urged the ILO to continue its work to create responsible supply chains, citing the explicit support of the G20 Labour Ministers and the fact the Bangladesh Accord is expected to be renewed. He also called on the Bangladesh government to desist from putting up obstacles to union organising, especially in the telecommunications sector. Jennings referred to Grameenphone where a judge had ruled that a UNI affiliate was a legitimate union while the government continues to prevent its recognition.

.The UNI GS asked the ILO to press on with its support for global framework agreements which recently received the backing of G20 ministers led by Chancellor Merkel. Welcoming the new ILO multinational guildelines, he pointed out that UNI has new agreements with Auchan and GeoPost and called on others, including T-Mobile, Prosegur, Bank Santander and Teleperformance to get on board. He also drew attention to the Royal Bank of Canada’s persistent failure to address worker rights issues in Trinidad and called on the bank to stop opposing the recognition of UNI affiliate BIGWU.

Jennings tackled President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement head-on as he had done earlier in the week at the OECD:

“The withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Climate Agreement is a set back for us all. Neither our unions in Pittsburgh nor those in countries ravaged by climate change are pleased. Trump is wrong. Climate action means jobs.”

The UNI Global Union GS concluded his speech to the ILO by renewing UNI’s call to the new President of Korea, Moon Jae-in to release KCTU President Han and reiterated UNI’s message to the international community to push ahead with a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. See ITUC statement on the same earlier this week.

His final remark was a reminder of the significant responsibility unions have in the future world of work.

“Shaping the future of humanity requires that unions can organize, grow, negotiate to take a stand for the common good for people and planet. With this we can bring a just transition to the digital and climate challenge.”