The world of work is changing and unions not only need to capture the effects of new technologies, but also find responses to these rapid changes brought about by the 4IR. More in-depth research on the implications on labour and the impacts of new developments on workers in different sectors is crucial. Therefore, together with the Labour Research Service (LRS) and UNI Africa we are focusing in particular on the future of work in the retail sector.
But labour also has to challenge conventional views on technological development: It is important to look at the 4IR from an African perspective in order to gather concrete information on the nature of work in the region and to develop new and effective forms of workplace organization and workers education. Even in the context of precarious and informal employment new and hybrid forms of worker organizations do evolve. This became apparent in our joint study with the International Transport Federation (ITF) on Uber and also seems to be the case for other platform workers. In a comprehensive study together with the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS) we are currently examining the emergence of solidarity and collective action among precarious workers. The aim of this project is to shift the debate from its narrow focus on technological trends to new and innovative ways of organizing and to different power resources that unions can draw on.
At all times, of course, we make sure that research goes hand in hand with worker education and capacity building by making use of existing platforms, shop steward alliances and alumni networks. These forums of exchange are key for exploring ways to successfully represent larger segments of the workforce, to expand unions’ membership base and to revitalize the labour movement.