1 July, 2020The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a severe health and economic crisis, with rising unemployment levels around the world. Its impact on the ICT, electrical and electronics sectors was a central topic when the IndustriALL steering committee for the sector met in June.
While some segments of ICT EE industry, like consumer electronics, aviation and automotive have seen massive dismissals of workers, the demand for semiconductors and devices related to data centres and next generation of high-speed communication network system like 5G, is steadily growing.
The pandemic is likely to accelerate technologies related to Industry 4.0, like robotization and artificial intelligence. ICT EE workers in telecommunication, energy and healthcare divisions report a higher workload than usual.
Unions from around the world are reporting cases of employers using Covid-19 as an excuse to dismiss workers, suspend CBAs and cancel wage increases.
Thai union TEAM filed a grievance when 12 subcontracted women were laid off.
Focusing on a functioning solution in times of crisis, Swedish union Unionen, reported on a tripartite agreement for short-term work with state support. As production was brought to a standstill, unions also pushed for using the time for skills development, vocational training, long distance learning.
There are strong concerns over securing workers’ health and safety rights, especially in factories in Latin America where the pandemic is still accelerating. Brazilian unions report that Covid-19 has revealed structural inequalities in the countries, with women facing great difficulties. For many, returning to work is difficult as many childcare facilities and schools are closed. The unions are negotiating with companies for provisions for women to continue to work from home for longer. The unions are also pushing hard for measures to be put in place to tackle the 25 per cent increase of domestic violence in Brazil.
As workers begin to return to work in other parts of the world, guaranteeing a safe return to work is of paramount importance.
In Japan, improvements have been made on a Covid-19 related directive on health and safety measures for pregnant women on the initiative of a woman parliament member from the JEIU union.
Sector co-chair, Prihanani Boenadi, from FSPMI in Indonesia, underlined the importance of a new organizing strategy to reach out to workers on teleworking, which looks likely to become normalized in the future:
“Unions need to develop new communication tools and methods to organize workers in the post Covid-19 era.”
With batteries becoming essential if the world is to reduce CO2 emissions, IndustriALL and its affiliates, representing workers throughout the entire battery supply chain, are developing a battery supply chain strategy. As battery production requires some key minerals, special attention must be given to ensuring decent working conditions and an environmental and socially sound industry.
The committee confirmed the sector specific activities for second half of 2020 – 2021:
• Provide (online) education and training on occupational health and safety, especially Covid-19 related, and specific gender issues where necessary
• Explore the possibility to create a new trade union network of sub-sector
• Develop supply chain strategy with other sectors, like the battery supply chain
• Continue to promote sustainable industrial policy as it is more important in the Covid-19 era
“We need to be involved in organizing the workers and securing their rights,”
said Kan Matsuzaki, IndustriALL ICT EE director.
“IndustriALL’s political statement, adopted at the Executive Committee in May, will guide the sector work in the coming years. We see that cooperation and international solidarity are necessary to overcome the challenges ahead and unions must be at the table when industrial policies for post Covid-19 are discussed.”
Takahiro Nonaka, section co-chair, stated in his message:
“We are experiencing an era of great change. The use of ICT will become more active and the arrival of the digital society will accelerate. However, no matter how we face the change, our mission is to have a society which puts people first."