27 September, 2021IndustriALL Asia Pacific affiliates in base metals and mechanical engineering sectors are demanding that governments and employers ensure a Just Transition for workers impacted by Industry 4.0 and green technology.
Approximately 40 trade unionists from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam attended the Asia Pacific regional base metals and mechanical engineering meetings respectively.
According to the World Economic Forum, the Covid-19 pandemic will accelerate remote work and digitalization, the rate of automation will also increase rapidly in the next five years.
In response to the threat to workers’ job security, Matthew Murphy, national industrial coordinator of Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing & Allied Services Union of Australia (CEPU/ETU), says:
“We need a skill management system to upskill existing workers and advocate for entry level industrial training aligning with vocational schools. Employers are not committed to upskilling; unions must engage in skill training to secure employment and ensure a Just Transition.”
Equally concerned with the trend of digitalization, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) inked an industrial transformation agreement with the Korean Metal Industry Employers’ Association in August, covering training for new technology, climate change and employment security.
Many affiliates share the issue of precarious work. Korean workers at Hyundai Steel were on strike for one month after being coerced into a subcontractor company.
Members of the Confederation of Thai Electrical Appliances, Electronic, Automobile and Metal Workers (TEAM-CILT) have been laid off and replaced by contract workers.
In Indonesia, after the implementation of the Omnibus Law, the duration of fixed term contracts has been extended from three to five years.
Japan, the third largest steel producing country, is gearing up to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Japanese unions are committed to produce cleaner and greener steel in the years to come.
Shinobu Satou, executive committee member of Japan Federation of Basic Industry Workers' Union (JBU), says:
“Japanese steel companies are investing in research and development in new technology in order to produce greener steel. The Japanese government has promised to provide a subsidy for the research. However, the issue of oversupply has cut companies’ profit and affected its ability to conduct research.”
Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL director for mechanical engineering and base metals, says:
“According to the latest research, many are convinced that the climate crisis is as severe as the Covid-19 pandemic. We have to use this momentum to take steps in the right direction and unions must pave the way.
"A shift towards renewable energy means great opportunities for mechanical engineering towards producing machineries for wind generators, water turbines, recycling equipment and others. Another positive aspect of digitalization is that the reduction of physical strain can mean new job opportunities for women workers in mechanical engineering.”