G7 Labour Summit: Just Transition principles must underpin the Future of Work

photo: Photo: Marc Kjerland

G7 Labour Ministers are meeting in Turin (29 September – 1 October) to address the Future of Work as global anxieties about jobs and rising inequality between the one per cent richest people and the rest of the population continue to grow.

The 2017 ITUC Global Poll found 74 per cent of people worry about inequality and 73 per cent of people worry about losing their jobs.

“People are anxious, and working people are struggling to get by. They know that global companies hold the power to set economic rules and that the economic system works in the favour of the richest one per cent,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation.

Structural changes in economies driven by digitalisation, demographic changes and migration are changing the shape of jobs and workplaces. Technological advances have the potential to deliver enormous benefits to society, but will also have profound consequences on employment and the quality thereof. Moreover, digital divides persist in the G7 when it comes to women, disadvantaged groups and rural regions and worldwide: around fifty per cent of the world’s population still has no access to the internet – while estimates on jobs displacement due to automation and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) vary between an alarming 50 per cent and a more nuanced nine per cent of occupations being displaced altogether.

“Technological innovation has always been supported by unions, and workers show a broad acceptance of new technologies. Eighty-five per cent of respondents in the ITUC Global Poll agree that new technologies will make jobs easier to do. People view technology as bringing opportunities but are aware that there is a chance for negative side effects on jobs that need to be addressed by rules and government action,” said Burrow.

Trade unions from G7 countries will present key principles for Labour Ministers to ensure that workers have a seat at the table in designing the future of work and that there is a fair and equitable distribution of economic gains from globalised and digitalised economies.

“For many, the future of work is already here. We need a Just Transition for workers whose jobs are at risk as well as for collective bargaining to sustain growth through rising wages,” said Pierre Habbard, Acting General Secretary, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC).

“Business models in the digital economy are too often based on using non-standard contracts that result in workers bearing all the risks. G7 Ministers can help shape a future of work that is based on quality jobs and not gigs, and call on such companies to uphold their responsibility as employers,” Habbard added.

Trade unions are calling on G7 Labour Ministers to:

  • Endorse Just Transition principles for workers;
  • Commit to social dialogue on the impact of automation and digitalisation;
  • Ensure fundamental labour rights – including freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively, and decent wages and social protection across the digital economy, and specifically the platform economy;
  • Stimulate job creation, public and private investment in the green and care economies, ICT- and STEM-related sectors and high-speed broadband coverage;
  • Enable the labour market participation of women and young people by formalising informal work;
  • Introduce a lifelong learning guarantee; and
  • Promote quality apprenticeships.

Read the Trade Union Statement to the G7 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting