UNI Nepal organized a half day interaction on future world of work and trade union on 22 July 2017 in the presence of the trade union confederation, the representative from UNI Head Office and in the honorable attendance of brother Christopher Ng, Regional Secretary of UNI Asia and Pacific. UNI Nepal is the national coordinating body of UNI Global Union, service and skilled workers global union federation around the globe. UNI Nepal has 17 trade unions of skill sector affiliated to it.
The interaction program was organized with the objective of discussing the challenges and opportunities of digitalization, platform economy and artificial intelligence at work especially in the services sector and its impact upon the work and worker’s organization. The program was organized as the panel discussion where the key presentation was by Mr. Krishna Prasad Bhandari, an expert on the issue. The presentation was an eye opener in terms of the future world of work and the challenges and opportunities it would have upon the working people.
The presentation focused on super commuters, concentration, freelancing, changing trade systems, superstores and their effect on employment with a reduced number, less control on earning, lesser bargaining power and longer working hours. The future world of work would be affected in terms of the changes in the structure, an introduction of the artificial intelligence, human cloud, workplace monitoring systems and the end of the retrenchment schemes. Especially, the introduction of AI at work would lead to higher automation, even in the decisions among structures.
The World Economic Forum has said, “ Fourth Industrial Revolution is imminent and that the role of humans in the workplace will change in favor of smart machines and automation.” There will be challenges for the human to compete with the robots whereby our focus from now has to be around reskilling, diversifying, new professions and fields of work, etc. and many more. However, this would not only be the end, but acceleration for freelancing employees, the creation of new potential for self-employment, etc. would have positive vibes into it.
During the program, the senior coordinator of UNICTS Mr. Alex Hogback shared the UNI Global Union ‘s initiative on the issue of the future world of work. UNI has been putting its effort into having the convention or standards on AI. UNI global unions have called for the establishment of the comprehensive agreement on the ethical use, development, and deployment of artificial intelligence, algorithm, and data. The academic, business, trade unions and consumers, government and civil society organization should be united to establish the global standards on governing the digitalization and AI practices.
Speaking as the chief guest for the discussion forum, Christopher NG said the trade union’s vision has to be more focused on the upcoming challenge to protect the decent work for the workers. We think it is too early to think about the new work features, but it has been slowly introduced in our part of the world, and there are several impacts of it including the job cuts, increasing precarious condition of work, gender aspects and many more. Hence, he urged the trade union leaders in the national and local level to lobby and act for combating the challenges that are susceptible in the future.
The leadership of the four major national centers was invited as the panel speakers on the issue. Mr. Khila Nath Dahal, President of Nepal Trade Union Congress ( NTUC) shared the importance of the visionary trade union movement to protect the workers in the precarious working condition. He shared the initiatives of the trade unions in Nepal to strengthen the social security provisions for the informal workers who were not into it which can be instrumental for future intimate work created due to the changing technology or other global agendas.
Speaking into the session, Mr. Ganesh Regmi, Acting President of All Nepal Trade Union Federation ( ANTUF)focused the trade union’s role in protecting the informal workers. The change is inevitable and so is development, which we have come upon. But, trade unions should be well aware of what can be its effect upon the work and the workers and accordingly the strategy should be developed. Mr. Lal Bahadur Pakhrin, President of Confederation of Nepalese Professional (CONEP), acknowledged the UNI’s initiative towards the discussion on the future world of work. We have seen the technological intervention in our workplace, but since it is very less, we don’t feel it would affect us. But, he accepted that the trade union movement should lead to developing the policies instruments to protect the workers from the ill effect.
During the open forum, the senior leadership of the affiliates of UNI Nepal share the change in the workplace, and their initiatives and also raised few concerns towards the international trade union movement. The gender aspect of the digitalization was also increased.
The discussion concluded with the note on the debate to be continued in future and trade unions attention has to be more into the issue to prepare us to combat the challenges in future