BackgroundThe ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work identified four drivers that impact the world of work. These are; globalization, demographic, environmental and technological changes. These drivers affect the labour markets of today and tomorrow, and with that the future of trade unions that has the potential of organizing and servicing workers, and to speak with one voice to participate in inclusive and effective social dialogue.
Whereas important challenges existed before the ongoing pandemic, COVID-19 has aggravated many of these. We are facing massive job losses, increase of people in precarious employment with no access to unemployment benefit or health care and possible disappear of whole sectors. How trade unions response to the challenges and changes will determine the future of trade unions. ILO, in response to the pandemic, has structured four pillars to tackle the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19. They are; stimulation the economy and employment, supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes, protecting workers in the workplace, and relying on social dialogue for solutions. With those pillars, now many constituents including trade unions are taking important roles for responding to the negative impact by the pandemic.
In the context of rapid changes including unforeseen changes by the pandemic, we can predict four possible scenarios:
- Marginalization- decreasing rates of unionization and aging unions
- Dualization- defending current positions and servicing members closest to them
- Replacement- a process of replacing trade unions by others, such as NGOs, social movements, states, employers or other intermediary agencies
- Revitalization- innovating tactics and coalitions to strengthen trade unions as strong, relevant, democratic and representative actors in organizing and servicing the ‘new unstable workforce’ in the Global North and South.
The objectivesTo highlight the role of trade unions in the following three dimensions:
- In the implementation of the ILO Centenary Declaration, with a particular reference to “Trade unions in Transition”;
- Better understanding of four scenarios
- To support trade unions to engage in debate and transformative action on the future of trade unions.