ILO: Urgent need to revitalize trade unions

Geopolitical tensions, climate change and natural disasters, as well as armed conflicts and food and financial crises are exacerbating inequalities and violations of workers’ and trade union rights, according to new ILO study. ILO ACTRAV urges trade unions to strengthen their unity and cooperation and calls for new forms of work to be organized, especially on digital platforms where young people are over-represented. It also includes a series of recommendations to build strong, representative, and resilient workers' organizations around the world.


The 2022 edition of the International Journal of Labour Research comes at a critical time, marked both by multidimensional crises affecting many countries around the world and by a surge in the attraction and influence of trade unions in responding to these crises. This year edition highlights the experiences of trade union revitalization worldwide with an emphasis on trade union unity and cooperation and the challenge of organizing new forms of work including platforms workers where young people are over-represented.


Maria Helena Andre, Director of ACTRAV said: "Trade unions play an important role in ensuring peace, social justice and decent work for all. From the ILO's point of view, we strongly believe that the revitalization of trade unions is possible. For this to happen, it is important that trade unions strengthen their unity and develop innovative strategies to attract and organise workers in new forms of work, especially those in the digital economy. More young people should be attracted to trade unions to reinforce their membership. We hope that this issue will stimulate reflexions and actions to strengthen the trade union movement".


The 2022 edition of the Review contains a series of recommendations to strengthen trade unions. These include moving towards unity by collaborating within the labour movement to reach common positions, extending unionization to groups in vulnerable situations, and addressing strategic objectives such as the creation of decent employment, decent work deficits, low wages, the impact of climate change and gaps in social protection.


Attracting young people is also a key concern for an increasingly ageing labour movement, the report says. The growing digital economy is challenging the fundamental governance of labour, but if engaged properly, young people can open an important avenue to increasing membership and strengthening trade unions. Trade unions are urged to strengthen their digital skills and knowledge to address the challenge of digitalization in the world of work. They must adopt innovative strategies to mobilize and organize workers in new forms of work, including those in the platform economy.


Forming networks and alliances with emerging associations, such as self-organized workers, and deploying digital communication tools in reaching a dispersed, yet constantly connected, online workforce is also recommended.



Sources: International Journal of Labour Research, Discourse of development