The experience of the last 30 years has shown – as if any more evidence was really needed – that employers will not voluntarily increase their employees’ real wages to match productivity. We don’t need any more debate about whether we need collective industrial relations. Thirty years of neoliberalism has provided all the evidence we could possibly need that excluding workers from decisions about pay and conditions has seriously damaging social and economic consequences.
What we have to start talking about again is what kind of collective industrial relations we need. What kind of workers’ organizations are most effective where employment is largely informal? Is it better to try to organize bargaining at enterprise or industry level? How do we support the growth and development of democratic trade unions? Are there models of democratic workers’ organization that are different from the Euro-American standard and that are more appropriate (for example) in circumstances where workers are informally or precariously employed? What can unions in the global north learn from these organizations? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of mandated as opposed to voluntary forms of worker representation?
They need to be encouraged to take that economically and socially responsible step – and who better them than workers themselves?
Abridged and adapted from an article by New Unionism, an approach being developed by unions who want to make change and set agendas, rather than just reacting to them. The New Unionism network brings together supporters of these principles and seeks to encourage wider involvement in the change process. The network has no formal structure, no officers, no policies or meetings. New Unionism can be reached at: email@example.com.