The effect on work since ICT development

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Globalisation and new information communication technologies (ICTs) provide a basis for changes in the employment relationships through their effects on organisational structures, product and service improvement on the place and nature of labour (Rubery and Grimshaw 2001).

The recent task on labour by management has called on the most interesting invention of ICT to work which is 24hrs work. The various ICTs such as internet web pages, emails, desktop and palm tops technologies and world wide web has helped employers create new forms of control spreading work outside the workplace into the personal and domestic sphere of people's life. It is clear that pay is still limited to the hours used at work while work has extended.

Interestingly, having 24hrs work became a general phenomenon in the globalised world, pay has become lower due to currency devaluation which reduced real wages. In many countries minimum wages have either fallen or not increased and this has not taking note of the 24hrs nature of work. Employers have exploited on the ICT development to create fuzzy employment relationships and diffuse precarious forms of work which has aided dramatic rise of employment and early retirement (Croucher and Cotton 2009:18).

Not surprisingly, Employers have utilized the full ICT development by replacing labour with technology, the development of ICTs has brought about the innovation of various technologies which has substituted for millions of jobs all over the world. The best evidence comes from three major industry which are as follows, Innovations in the retail industry such internet purchase, self check out have allowed for lower labour cost, also transport industry particularly the Air transport has introduced of online check-in which has reduced the amount of customers attended to at the airport. Finally the various internet banking and ATM cards and machine in the financial sector have greatly contributed to unemployment.

All of the recent changes have allowed employers in almost every sector to fully utilising the continuous development of ICTs which have not proved very healthy to the increasing growth of workers. This in turn is implications for labour market institutions which shape the contract of employment and collective regulations (Rubery and Grimshaw 2001: ).



Industrial relation is beyond the presumed function of collective bargaining, negotiation and job regulation but its functions encompasses every aspects of employment relation (ER) and human resources management (HRM) (Croucher). The international industrial relation's root is traced to the various industrial revolutions at different times in various countries, causes of the revolutions were mainly economic and social changes such as labour issues, monotonous and dangerous work, low wages, long working hours, and unpleasant supervisory practices that led to high labour turnover, vehement strikes and the threat of social insecurity (Verma and Kochan 2004:18). Industrial relations take different forms, structures, functions and take different approach in the various business systems. The various forms of industrial relation are employee representation, worker's council and trade unions. Trade unions have occupied a central place in industrial relations since the beginning of this field (ibid: 1).

In order to make sense of the potential role of ICTs developments influence on union affairs, a clear understanding of its organisation structure and issues affecting them is essential. Hogan (2006) Using the Michelsian "iron law of oligarchy pointed out four 'forces' that are seen to generate oligarchy within the trade union context such as inequality of knowledge, differential control over the means of communication, time, space and energy poverty and uneven distribution of communicative skill. A general consensus has emerged that unions have faced a significant period of decline due to above internal and external factors over the past two decades (Ward and Lusoli, 2003; Verma and Kochan 2004; Whittall, Knudsen and Huijgen 2009).


The organisational culture of Trade unions is described by many academicians has synonymous with being parochial, rigid bureaucratic reporting lines, hierarchical and minimal union interaction, little traditions of changing experience has limited its effectiveness in tackling current trends (Brown; Bailey, 2006). In consequence, these culture has shaped its fundamental role of managing the employment relation as membership of mass trade union organizations has fallen and their political influence waned, they have often been seen as being in inexorable decline, particularly in terms of their representative function and as a participatory channel for citizen(Ward and Lusoli, 2003).


Gradually both international standards and nationals laws which protected employee are been revised or not enforced by government in ways that are negative to trade unions since they have not been able tackle misconduct effectively. Initially government pro-labour legislation went simply unobserved such as childcare facilities at workplace in South Korea amongst many issues.

Next government went clearly to being more concerned with employer reactions which were mainly caused by wave of globalisation aided by ICT to labour supply and creating of export processing zones (EPZs). The labour supply is a tool developing economies such as India, China and some former soviet union used as comparative advantage in the globalised economy. This allowed for cheap labour which was below standard of living. The EPZs are places where foreign companies are given incentives that are largely imposed by them on governments to suspend labour laws. EPZs employ over 40million workers who mainly are young women and are largely not protected by any form of union due to inability to penetrate them (Croucher and Cotton, 2009).

Finally it is worth emphasizing that the basic right of every individual on freedom of association and right to collective bargaining which are core on trade union membership and effectiveness are being threatened. The finding holds that countries like USA, India and China have declined to ratify the ILO convention (87 and 98) even some countries that ratified are not observing these basic human rights which determine the union's effectiveness.


The variables at play appear to identify that Unions are hampered by the ability to attain a supranational identity. Hyman (1999: 96) argues in his critical discussion of the view of universal labour solidarity, "reality is different. We are shaped by our direct experiences, immediate milieu, specific patterns of social relations. Broader identities and affiliations are founded on the direct, immediate and specific, through inter-subjectivities which link these to the external and encompassing." It is relevant to understand who members of unions identify with, is it the international, regional or national, industry sector unions or even company unions. Another compelling question would be is who does trade unions identify with in acting their role, Is it the constituency that selected them, the trade union they belong to, or does identification extend out to cover the colleagues on the Union or the whole workforce of the MNCs in question? The clarity of the answer would indicate what their supranational identity is. More so individuals and few groups of individuals such as the BBC monitoring dissident majority through means of ICTs have monitored the performance of TUs and their roles. Findings especially in Whittall et. al (2009) description of European Workers Council (EWCs) transnational identity which is supposed to offer a regional solidarity approach to workers have many constraints and therefore seen to be dependent on state and employers for their existence which is believed to hamper their value.


The weight of evidence from the above explicit developments facing industrial relation, there is need for demand for strategic thinking to make trade unions remain relevant (Hogan, 2006). Since the strategic evolution of the late 1990s instigated by ICTs in the various forms of industrial relations, there are heightened debates about the nature and role of ICT within and across unions.

The earliest debates against ICTs development in Unions was on representative unions could lose its validity if individuals irrespective of their location can engage directly through IT means with government and employers. This notion debaters have forgotten that traditional unions have began to lose their efficacy even without ICT intervention. Beaumont (2006) indicated that this view are upheld majorly leaders in unions who benefited immensely from the traditional institutions.

This essay identifies three encompassing ways ICTs developments have and can generate to the validity of representative unions.


A host of academician have extensively addressed at ICT's role in Union's administrative strategy which can produce effectiveness gains and promote themselves to prospective members and to the general community (Ward and Lusoli, 2003; Beaumont, 2006; Hogan, 2006; Whittall et. al 2009). ICTs have proved as a platform that can challenge if not overcome the parochial, bureaucratic system in Unions.

Traditional knowledge of achievement and actions are captured in the minds of the few leaders called into a closed door meeting or captured in a implicit yearly union journal. This form of knowledge storage is handicapped and not motivating enough to unions in general or even daunting the employers. On the contrary, ICTs allows Unions to narrate directly rather than through the filter of mass media that is highly commercially and politically driven which easily accessible for all tiers of union members and the world community of employers and workers (Ad hoc Committee on Labour and the Web, 1999). This is a compelling plus to role of ICT in industrial relation whether now or later in the future as it has solved the challenge of broken history (Hogan, 2006).

Union web sites and its many content have not just helped with storage of action but also a decisive service indicator which is essential for communicating to the isolated workers in workplace and provide service for workers outside the collective bargaining arrangement such as the EPZ workers (Freeman, 2005). More so various Unions such as in UK, Australia, US, South Africa, Japan and even china have used their websites to indicate services such as skills development for both union staff, and workers they represent, career guidelines, financial packages and housing guides against the presumed general complaint role of unions (Cockfield, 2003).Thus achieved training, communication skills outside an institutionalised structure.

A democratic union that indicated transparency of leaders' actions has been clamoured for by many individuals, union bloggers and rank and file members. (Hogan and Grieco, 2000; Hogan, 2006, Beaumont, 2006) Beaumont explains why a change in attitude, expenditure and constitution is required to accommodate internal transparency in unions. As earlier behind closed door meeting with company managements captured unions generally this led to oligarchy and resulted to corruption and inefficiency. Virtual time, energy and space mean that knowledge need not be subject to centralist ironic laws of oligarchy since it is committed to developing confidence of all members having a voice. Though, conservative nature of Unions has not been very receptive and innovative on this discourse, the potential of the internet as a democratizing and progressive mechanism within trade union organization (Hogan, 2006; Beaumont, 2006).Consistent progress is necessary in its democratisation so as to curb the evidenced replacement by individual/labour militant on a case of BBC monitoring dissident majority, unofficial fire-fighters, Liverpool Dockers, and roggerlyons website and company's usage of NGOs to attest to their fair labour practice. Therefore can be assumed that ICTs with is many traits have helped innovate the principle of reverse surveillance of union leaders and thereby endanger suppressing of information (Little and Grieco, 2006).


The persistent membership decline faced by unions globally is being captured by over 50% of unions globally who have introduced facilities that enhanced online membership and internet based services which have helped increase their awareness that would contribute to major membership growth.

The image of Unions is been revived with the full utilization of World Wide Web as a tool for recruitment. The perception of many on trade union is that it is male dominated, old fashioned, an issue of the past and confrontational. The internet vast usage has contributed to the current awareness and positive image it gained in the last few years (Ward and Lusoli, 2003). Over a quarter of world's population uses the internet with mainly young people has the dominant user, interestingly the young people are the targets needed in the unions, hence effective use of internet by unions would not only help change perception, but also help recruit the younger e-generation who may never join the traditional institution such as trade unions community (Ward and Lusoli, 2003; Cockfield, 2003).

The most obvious use of the internet that helped unions is the ability for non -members to join at no much cost on the union which requires filling up membership forms on-line from the convenience of their home. This in turn has helped union officials with membership database, complains tracking and meeting the immediate need of members through intranet, emails, video conferencing. The internet recruitment has complemented insted of replacing the old traditional forms of recruitment and has tremendously helped to achieve time and space poverty.


Lee (2006) defined 'campaign as efforts to mobilize people to put pressure on governments or employers, campaign often have the intended or unintended consequence of raising morale among those workers on the front lines, raised the spirits of the men and women on the picket line or in jail'. The modes of campaign that generate to solidarity action have changed over the years from the traditional ways to advertisement on frequently visited website such as Google, boycotting of the company at stake's website to help sensitize its stakeholder, online electronic voting and using catchy headline on new feeds. Global and effective solidarity is the most prevalent tool that ICTs has generated by being immediate, cost effective to enable effective collective bargaining

Before the advent of ICTs campaigning for a course was the most expensive role of trade unions and this greatly affected their performance when membership subscription dropped. Presently campaign are waged at minimal cost because its requirement are knowledge of the course or issue via emails and intranet at almost no cost, then a fax or email by the union to affiliates and the concerned company or government from the convenience of the secretariat instead of the cost of transporting official to location of issue and even the cost conveying of unions on the course of action if it is an international body is being achieved by the internet at a shared cost procedure. Some campaign may involve even more such as video conference, website creation on the internet to resolve the issue which when calculated together cannot be compared to the cost incurred in the traditional campaigns of printing and postal service. Lee (2006) described the cost incurred by the international community on releasing a Russian comrade from detention as email and telephone cost. The cost effectiveness of ICTs on campaign and solidarity has helped gain more influence to industrial relation performance.

A relating effect of ICTs to campaign and solidarity is the immediacy. Actions are better tackled in unions especially the international unions with immediacy. Whitthal et al explains how EWCs has achieved quick success on issues within Europe without having to deal with the barrier/ delay of language, culture and internal country policy with ICTs devices as their aid (2009). The patterns of the development and acts achieved by the Dockers worldwide in the 2yrs solidarity move on account of an issue in Liverpool as clearly analysed by bailey (2006) and Carter et al (2003) that ICTs has sharpened the immediacy of issue and helped alienated global issue of time, energy and space poverty to campaigning.

The power of plenty is an advantage of every campaign and solidarity move towards a course. Internet facility allows for the participation of a vast number of users the campaigned is channelled towards. Hogan (2006) in his explanation of Michel framework describes thus

"The new globalised technologies transcend the historical limits of word-of-mouth, rank and file communication structures and are able to globalise at little cost the perspectives, objectives and experiences of the rank and file instantaneously and to an infinite audience".

The success story of online strategic campaign by local unions that resulted into a more responsive collective bargaining with governments and companies was reported in Lee (2006) in places like Canada, Haiti, Philippine, Pakistan, New Zealand, Colombia, South Korea to mention but a few.

Clearly the evidence above indicates that Unions have used online campaigning to strengthen the more conventional forms of offline protest which have lost none of their effectiveness, such as rallies, marches and picket lines (Lee, 2006). Though global solidarity by international unios has been rather passive instead of being the front- liner in ICT measures of campaigning (Verma and Kochan 2004; Lee, 2006; Croucher and Cotton 2009).

In summary, the patterns of business and government in the context of globalised information communication technology and its use by social and labour movements is already changing. The role of ICT in Industrial labour relation is no longer a myth but a visible development to its traditional structure, process and policies. Trade unions globally and locally especially those in the 'underdeveloped' countries should embark more rigorously on investing on ICTs devices as government and employers are using labour has the comparative advantage