FEDUSA Calls for a Coherent Response to the 4th Industrial Revolution this May Day

1 May 2019

As South Africa joins the world in celebrating International Workers or May Day tomorrow, the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has called on the government to come up with a comprehensive and coherent response to the technological disruptions in the world of work that is generally known as the 4th industrial revolution in line with the principles of decent work and just transition to new ways of working.

The government needs to provide clear and urgent leadership as the 4th industrial revolution will introduce profound changes to the world of work through the replacement of manual tasks by digitized and automated processes that will threaten many jobs unless all workers are deliberately re-skilled to take advantage of the new technological opportunities.

“In fact FEDUSA would like to see the Department of Labour, as the lead ministry in this regard spearheading legislative changes that would ensure that training and re-skilling of workers form part of collective bargaining agreements so that ultimately, workers are not victims of this revolution as happened in March when Standard Bank retrenched 1 200 workers and closed 91 branches across the country because of the digitization of its operations and processes,” said FEDUSA Acting Secretary Riefdah Ajam.

“At the same time, we need to emphasise that organized labour itself embrace the future of work and the new jobs to be created in particular with blockchain technology and securities in the banking sector. Trade off’s must also have a soft landing where workers must be protected”.

Available statistics about the 4th industrial revolution are unsettling as they show that 47% of workers in the United States are at risk of having their jobs replaced by automation. In the Asean countries, 56% of jobs are at risk of automation over the next 20 years.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, while less than 5% of all occupations could be automated entirely using demonstratable technologies, about 60% of all occupations have at least 30% of constituent activities that can be automated. The World Bank says two thirds of jobs in the developing word are susceptible to automation. In 2018, the World Economic Forum said nearly 50% of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022.

While May Day is supposed to be a day of celebration for the working class as whole, it is disturbing that massive petrol hikes of 64 cents a litre will come into effect on the day and the scourge of gender inequality and discrimination in the world of work still continue to be addressed only through half-heatred measures instead of concrete, decisive and sincere action by the state on the ground.

In addition, government needs to formulate and announce clear cut policies in response to climate change in order to mitigate its negative impacts on jobs and ensure a fair transition to new forms of energy for affected sectors. As the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has argued, there needs to be a global agreement and just transition measures to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

“There are no jobs on a dead planet but it’s more than just a slogan: we’re already witnessing the loss of lives and livelihoods because of extreme weather events and changing seasons. Working people are on the frontlines of climate change, with more than 2.5 million people displaced from their homes. And workers will be on the frontlines of the industrial transformation that is a necessity for a zero-carbon future,’’ says the ITUC on its website.

Statistics cited by ITUC show that investment renewable energies and the green economy is creating jobs on a massive scale; for example the US solar industry is creating jobs twenty times faster than the overall economy while the world’s largest renewable energy job market is in China, with 3.4 million working in the industry and in Germany, 370,000 people are employed in renewable energy, the largest number in Europe.



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For interviews please contact:

Masale Godfrey Selematsela

FEDUSA President

065 652 2832/083 653 3021

Riefdah Ajam

FEDUSA Acting General Secretary

079 696 2626

Issued by:

Frank Nxumalo

FEDUSA Media and Research Officer

072 637 8096