ILO calls for collective bargaining as first line of defence as robots replace jobs

The International Labour Organization (ILO) - the workers’ rights arm of the United Nations - has urged world leaders to promote collective bargaining as a first line of defence at a time when the rapid automation of work is putting jobs under threat.

22 Jan 2019| News

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

Encouraging employers to negotiate with trade unions is a key mechanism in the body’s Universal Labour Guarantee, to which its Global Commission on the Future of Work is asking member nations to commit, and which provides for an adequate wage, work/life balance and safe and healthy workplaces for all.

Automation will lead to job losses and some skills will become obsolete, the report said, but there are also opportunities for workers from technological advancements, with millions of new roles expected to be created by the rise of green industries.

Indeed, among the future challenges that the Committee considered, climate change and our response to it was prime.

Alongside the Universal Labour Guarantee, the body recommended guaranteed social protection from birth to old age; a universal entitlement to education that enables people to skill, reskill and upskill; leveraging technological advancements to boost – rather than degrade – the quality of work; greater investment in the care, green and rural economies; action to improve gender equality; and encouraging businesses to make long-term investments.

”Countless opportunities lie ahead to improve the quality of working lives, expand choice, close the gender gap, reverse the damages wreaked by global inequality,” the report states. “Yet none of this will happen by itself. Without decisive action we will be sleepwalking into a world that widens existing inequalities and uncertainties.”

Stefan Löfven, Swedish Prime Minister and Joint Chair of the Commission, stressed that “governments, trade unions and employers need to work together, to make economies and labour markets more inclusive. Such a social dialogue can help make globalisation work for everyone.”

“The issues highlighted in this report matter to people everywhere and to the planet,” ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, said. “They may be challenging but we ignore them at our peril.”

In our latest report, Rolling out the Manifesto for Labour Law, The Institute of Employment Rights lays out a detailed plan for the reshaping of the UK’s economy and labour market to refocus on collective rather than individual rights. By reinstating sectoral collective bargaining – and stronger trade union rights to encourage negotiation at all levels of the economy – we believe that many of the ILO’s recommendations can be met. Our experts propose that National Joint Councils are established at the head of each industry, acting as fora within which employer, worker and government representatives can negotiate fair wages and conditions for workers, as well as plan ahead to prevent future skills gaps and other industry challenges.

Many of the 25 recommendations made by our experts have been adopted by the Labour Party and were included within its 2017 Manifesto For the Many, Not the Few.

Click here to read more about the Manifesto for Labour Law