International Journal of Labour Research

Unions must work together and find ways to organize new forms of work

Trade unions need to strengthen their unity, attract more young people and organize workers in the digital economy, according to a new report.

Press release | 26 September 2022
GENEVA (ILO News) – The urgent need to revitalize trade unions around the world has been highlighted in the 2022 edition of the International Journal of Labour Research launched by the Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV) at the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Geopolitical tensions, climate change and natural disasters, as well as armed conflicts and food and financial crises are exacerbating inequalities and violations of workers’ and trade union rights, according to the study.

This year’s International Journal of Labour Research, published by ACTRAV, urges trade unions to strengthen their unity and cooperation and calls for new forms of work to be organized, especially on digital platforms where young people are over-represented.

Trade Union Revitalization: Organizing new forms of work including platform workers, shares best practices for innovative strategies that trade unions can adopt to strengthen their organizations. It also includes a series of recommendations to build strong, representative, and resilient workers’ organizations around the world.

Maria Helena Andre, Director of ACTRAV said: "Trade unions play an important role in ensuring peace, social justice and decent work for all. From the ILO's point of view, we strongly believe that the revitalization of trade unions is possible. For this to happen, it is important that trade unions strengthen their unity and develop innovative strategies to attract and organise workers in new forms of work, especially those in the digital economy. More young people should be attracted to trade unions to reinforce their membership. We hope that this issue will stimulate reflexions and actions to strengthen the trade union movement.”

The 2022 edition of the Review contains a series of recommendations to strengthen trade unions. These include moving towards unity by collaborating within the labour movement to reach common positions, extending unionization to groups in vulnerable situations, and addressing strategic objectives such as the creation of decent employment, decent work deficits, low wages, the impact of climate change and gaps in social protection.

Attracting young people is also a key concern for an increasingly ageing labour movement, the report says. The growing digital economy is challenging the fundamental governance of labour, but if engaged properly, young people can open an important avenue to increasing membership and strengthening trade unions. Trade unions are urged to strengthen their digital skills and knowledge to address the challenge of digitalization in the world of work. They must adopt innovative strategies to mobilize and organize workers in new forms of work, including those in the platform economy.

Forming networks and alliances with emerging associations, such as self-organized workers, and deploying digital communication tools in reaching a dispersed, yet constantly connected, online workforce is also recommended.

About the International Journal of Labour Research

The International Journal of Labour Research (IJLR) is the flagship publication of the Bureau for Workers’ Activities of the ILO. A multidisciplinary journal, the IJLR is a vehicle for dissemination of international research on labour, economic, and sustainable development policies. Its target readership includes workers’ organizations, practitioners, researchers, labour ministries, and academics in all disciplines of relevance to ILO constituents in the world of work – industrial relations, sociology, law, economics, and political science. The IJLR is published in English, French, and Spanish, and each issue focuses on a specific theme.