On 1 May workers, their unions and progressive allies will hit the streets all over the world – at least where they are allowed to demonstrate. Regrettably, in too many countries freedom of association and the right to peaceful assembly are under threat and workers claiming those rights are exposed to repressive measures, such as dismissal, harassment and even violence. This fundamental freedom needs to be defended and SOLIDAR does it not only on 1 May, but as part of our daily work. This is why at this year’s SILVER Rose Awards, we honoured the engagement of SINTRAMAGA – the domestic workers’ union in Colombia. Attacks on the right to organize are not new and in modern times they include both old forms of repression and intimidation and often new demagogic rhetoric around the idea that collective rights do not need to be defended individually.
Today, the working class is confronted with ambiguous and contradictory predictions about the consequences of digital capitalism, with frightening estimates of possible job losses (on average across 21 OECD countries, 9% of jobs face a high risk of disappearing because of automation while for another 25% of jobs between 50% and 70% of the tasks could change significantly because of automation). The labour market will certainly change, as it always has, in particular since the first industrial revolution. What is new is that the capitalists have no real commitment to social dialogue and social investment. Unions and collective bargaining are needed not only to defend workplaces under threat, but above all to ensure a balance between rights and duties. Unions also know best where to target investment for professional and vocational training, which is needed to keep workers in the loop. Another difference in this age of digitalization is that change affects all kinds of work, not only on the level of those that started the workers’ movement, often those in less skilled jobs. Supercomputers will compete with lawyers on jurisdiction, with architects on design, self-driving cars and lorries are not science fiction, nor pulp fiction. There is a need therefore for social protection for all kinds of employment. New models with safeguards and guarantees need to be projected and developed in order to give certainties to workers in the new and old economy.
Last year, we welcomed the European Pillar of Social Rights which now needs to be implemented. Work life balance is certainly an important aspect. Nevertheless, decent work and quality employment are a precondition for a work life balance that should be more than an ambition for the middle class. At least the vote on the interpretive directive on posting of workers and others have shown that it is possible to make a difference if there is a strong alliance of progressives, unions and civil society.
Join the unions on 1 May! Worker’s rights are human rights! Everywhere!