Digitisation and the increased use of technology remain a huge threat to job security, however they have come to stay as the new and better ways of doing things.
On that score, Ghana’s trade unions have a lot to do to ensure not too many of their members suffer job losses to the growing trends of automation and digitization at the workplace.
These were the promptings Mrs. Hannah Owusu Koranteng, Chairperson of the National Women’s Committee of the Union of Informal Workers Associations (UNIWA), offered Ghana’s workers unions as she addressed the 4th Quadrennial Women’s Committee Delegates’ Conference of the Public Utility Workers Union held in Accra on Wednesday.
Responding to the issue of how workers can stay ahead of the increasing technology infiltration at the workplace, Mrs. Owusu Koranteng said digitization and automation have come to stay and it is therefore important that trade unions initiate discussions with stakeholders in order to help secure more jobs.
According to her, even though digitization is a good thing, it will be seen as a bad phenomenon when majority of workers begin to lose their jobs to machines and thereby worsen the high unemployment rate in the country, already a debilitating burden.
She also advised the unions to encourage its members to acquire new skills, adding that possessing certificates alone is not good enough. “Workers must go the extra mile to update their knowledge by acquiring skills through workshops and other capacity building programmes”, she advised.
Mrs. Owusu Koranteng therefore advised trade unions to begin negotiations with employers on the percentage of digitization required in the companies so as to fairly manage the effects.
She said if this is done, trade unions will have a say in determining what percentage of jobs are lost and also prevent employers from taking parochial decisions to cut cost and divide labour.
“Digitisation is just a process of making sure the cost of labour is reduced. Whenever the capitalist is thinking about cutting cost, their first choice is labour. They do not think about the cost of other factors of production because labour is what is physical so that is what they want to cut”, she said.
Mrs. Owusu Koranteng added that “It is in our interest as unionists to understand what the concept of automation is and why it is important for it to be there and we must start having deliberations with our employers to agree on the amount of digitisation that will be introduced so that we can save as many jobs as possible.”
She said it is therefore important that broader discussions begin now on how to maintain workers at their jobs.