May 11, PSI launched a 3-year digital capacity building project for public services unions across the world. The project "Our Digital Future" aims to empower public service unions to understand and act on digitalisation-related changes at the workplace and in public service delivery.
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This project, supported through a partnership With Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, will build regional networks of unionists and experts to advance our policies and strategies on digital transformation. Union Leaders will be provided with the space to share and discuss policies and union transformation processes. Shop stewards and the union staff supporting their negotiations will co-create models for the co-governance of algorithmic systems, for improving workers' collective data rights and for tabling demands to employers when they invest in disruptive technologies.
Now is a crucial time. As the costs of the pandemic mount, our public budgets are coming under increased pressure and many private companies’ are promising “digital solutions.” When these solutions are created and implemented without workers and unions involved, they are often discriminatory, inefficient, poorly governed and will only increase the surveillance of citizens and workers alike at the detriment of our fundamental rights.
Too often, Digital reform means cuts to jobs and services and austerity - NOT better services.
The project also focuses on how to stop digital colonialism; as more big tech firms promote 'solutions' to the global south as pathways to development, this is increasingly becoming yet another extractive industry – transferring wealth from these countries to big tech.
No inter-governmental body or multilateral institution has signaled they are prepared to regulate cohesively and jointly to promote quality public services and put the interests of workers and our planet before the promises of digital tech companies.
Unions must be ready to shape digitalisation so it can bolster our rights and the capacity of the public sector - rather than giving more power and influence over to firms, who once they build platforms for governments, can then lock us in and set the terms.
Speaking at the launch, PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli said:
"This isn't just about changing tools which workers are using but also about the governance and management of very important public data. We need to ensure our members are aware of how workers will be required to work in future and how we adapt to this new style of work."
PSI has partnered up with one of the world's leading experts on the digitalisation of work, and workers, Dr. Christina J. Colclough. With a background in the global union family, and founder of the Why Not Lab, Christina will be supporting PSI throughout the implementation of the project. She said:
"It is a great honour to support PSI in this important work. We need to table an alternative digital ethos that empowers workers rather than exploits them and that defends and promotes quality public services for generations to come. I look forward to working with the public services unions across the world in making this happen."
PSI Assistant General Secretary Daniel Bertossa said:
"PSI wants to make sure unions, union leaders and workers are in control of the digitalisation process. We have an opportunity to put forward a vision of digitalisation which is worker and union friendly, and in the public interest.These are complex issues. Having Christina Colclough onboard, who has pioneered much of the union work on digitalisation, is a huge asset for us."
Learn More about Our Digital Future Project