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8 Union communication, organising and representation

This theme deals with the rights required for union organising, union representation and other trade union activites in an increasingly digitalised environment. In this changing era, workers' communications with their trade union representatives and between one another remain must be protected.

Workers and unions have always sought protections for their right to organize. In the digital era, workers and unions must ensure that these rights are protected.

Workers and unions must demand strong language that protects:

  • Access to the workforce

  • Trade union communications

This subtheme deals with the rights and protections that workers and unions need to effectively and freely access and contact each other.

Unions have long fought for access to the workplace by negotiating for things like workplace message boards to post announcements and office space for union leaders. However, as more jobs move online and remote work becomes more common, trade unions need to develop new ways to access the workforce.

In the digital era, effective communication between unions and union members may require new digital tools like email, text messages, or digital message boards. These digital tools may rely on infrastructure provided by the employer, or they may be independent of the workplace.

Unions and workers must bargain for the necessary information to access and communicate with each other. They must also protect the right to communicate with each other, even if communication happens through tools owned or operated by the employer.

This subtheme deals with ensuring that communication between workers, and between workers and unions, is private and free from management surveillance and monitoring.

Workers' communication with each other and with their union must be free from management oversight. In an increasingly digitized workplace, communication channels - including email and messaging applications - have become easy to monitor and surveil. Ideally, employers should be prohibited from accessing union communications.

Private and secure communication is key to building trust between unions and union members, and can help unions can organize and represent members effectively. This is why unions and their members must work to protect their right to communicate freely and privately, and ensure they can contact each other on a regular basis.

Trade union considerations: Ensuring private correspondence

If management does view union communications, management should not be able to use the information included in the correspondence. Some jurisdictions may offer protections that ensure the privacy of union-member communications, but protections can be strengthened through collective bargaining. The most secure option to ensure that communication between workers about organizing and trade union activities is private is to use tools not owned by the employer. When this is not possible, agreements with management should ideally prohibit – or as a minimum detail the circumstances which management would access these communications.