IFWEA Programme Manager Saliem Patel has completed a four-part workshop for BWI affiliates in six southern African countries with a course titled Digital Communication Tools and Methods for Organising Workers in Trade Unions. Participants were drawn from Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The course looked at how digital communication platforms and methods can assist trade union organisers, shop stewards and activists to organise workers and build a union with an active and participatory membership.
Over the past three decades, the world of work has changed tremendously and is now in a permanent process of change. The 4IR spurred on by artificial intelligence and microchip technology is driving innovation in all aspects of work, including occupations, forms of employment and forms of ownership and control of production and distribution processes.
Workers feel the pain of this change through declining real wages, declining conditions of work and a growth of precarious employment or high rates of unemployment. This has also affected trade unions whose members make up a smaller percentage of the workforce and whose power to effectively represent their members has declined.
The workshops covered numerous digital tools and methods for organising workers, with practical applications. Participants learnt how to use Google Forms, Google Sheets and Google Docs to collaborate, conduct participatory research and organise collectively. They learnt about the advantages and disadvantages of social media, especially when it comes to creating a Facebook page to involve non-members. They were also shown how to use an education platform to develop organising strategies. In addition, participants were shown how to submit a research proposal and comment on another person’s research proposal.
The workshops encouraged participants to talk about their experience of working on an online education platform, with the aim of developing personal indicators to assess the use of digital platforms for organising, and to find out about other ways of improving digital communication for organising, such as making websites more interactive and establishing a YouTube channel.
Taken that digital communication tools are constantly evolving, it is important to explore new ones to improve communication within trade unions and with and between members. “This learning should be encouraged, especially at the grassroots, and solutions to making digital communication accessible to all should be on the agenda of all of us that see a future for democratic trade unions with an active membership,” says Patel.