Dennis Clarke, former head of the Barbados National Union of Public Workers, said trade unions must consider how to position themselves not only during the current crisis but within a post-COVID-19 world.
He said the crisis has shown that in the effort to move forward successfully, unions must adjust in order to give support to members in light of certain adjustments in the work environment, the Barbados Advocate reported on May 24.
“Business will no longer be as usual because the world of work and socialization has suddenly been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Clarke said. “The fourth industrial revolution of digitization has been catapulted into overdrive and ‘distancing’ has thrown industrial relations into a state of catalepsy.”
Highlighting that labor is facing several uncertainties, including new forms of contract of employment, Clarke said the movement will also have to deal with the issue of whether those who have been laid off will all be reengaged on the full reopening of workplaces.
“Will the current social protection be strong enough to hold up the unfortunates who will not be reengaged following a period of layoff?” the retired union boss said. “What avenues will there be for suitable alternative employment? Will the employers jump on the opportunity to downsize given the current state of business not only in Barbados but across the world? These are but some of the pressing issues labor faces in a digitized world that is about to maximize the digital technology much sooner than expected thanks to COVID-19.”