Webinar: effects of automation and digitalisation on young transport workers

27 Nov 2020

2020 will be remembered as the year when the world nearly came to a halt. However, there has been one sphere where human activities and interest exploded – automation and digitalisation. Hailed as an answer to the need for social distancing, these two issues open a lot of questions on the future of young transport workers. The ETF Youth Committee organised on 17 November a webinar to look for answers.

Apart from discussing the impact automation and digitalisation (A&D) on young workers and needed trade union response, the webinar covered also examples of how unions can use digital tools to their advantage.

The first session, dedicated to A&D impact and the future of work included presentations from Lionel Fulton from the Labour Research Department and Nikita Sanaullah from European Youth Forum. The speakers stated that young workers will be the most affected by both COVID-19 crisis and A&D transition. At the same time, they stressed that COVID-19 might actually slow certain automation projects due to the global economic downturn. As for the needed response, on the one hand, state support for young people will be essential. On the other, the unions have to identify the young workers’ needs to engage and serve them better.

The second session included examples of trade unions that introduced digital tools effectively. Libertad Alcocer from FSC-CCOO (Spain), ETF Youth Committee member, demonstrated how CCOO managed to successfully move the union’s youth school online due to COVID-19 and maintain engagement of their young members. The second speaker, Chris Webb from Communications Workers’ Union (UK), shared his union’s experience in building a strong community through both online and offline activities. In the discussion that followed, the participants agreed that while offline activities should remain an important tool, there is room for improvement regarding unions’ structures, language and methods of working (e.g. more campaigning).

The webinar gathered around 40 participants from around Europe, and was organised as part of the EU co-funded project ‘Automation and Digitalisation Toolkit (EADT)’.

The end product of the project – the toolkit developed by the Labour Research Department – will provide an insight into the technological changes in the transport sectors and provide concrete advice on how unions can ensure that workers have a say in the introduction of new technologies.