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Challenging digital innovators - remarks by General Secretary, Dermot Ryan at NIC ICTU conference

Issued : 11 April 2018

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"It is time for Trade Unions to put down a challenge to the digital innovators. 

"Use your creativity, use your tech savvy and brilliant minds to advance our economy and society, but do it in a way that not just makes a lot of money, but in a way that respects the working conditions of not just your direct employees, but everyone in your supply chain.  This is how we as a Union movement can campaign in a progressive way to be relevant in a digital age."

- Dermot Ryan, General Secretary, FSU

 

Speech by FSU General Secretary, Dermot Ryan at NIC ICTU conference "Better Work, Better Lives" - 11th April 2018.

I am very proud today to represent a Union that is now in its centenary year.  100 years ago at the Mansion House in Dublin, bank workers from across the island of Ireland gathered to organise and negotiate with their employers, and the Financial Services Union has proudly represented workers in the sector since then.

 And while we give a nod to the past, and build on our proud history, we believe at the FSU that we must also look to the future.  We must challenge ourselves in how we adapt to organising in the new economy, in an economy where many people choose to bank through an app and rather than visit a bank branch you often speak to a worker in a call centre.

 Workers in our sector know more than most about some of the more negative impacts of digitalisation on working lives.   The impact and speed of change in data collection, automation and digital analysis are unprecedented.   The workforce is expected to learn new skills with individual targets rapidly changing often without the necessary training and support to help them to adapt.

Our members know that in many ways they too benefit from digitalisation and technological advances.  We all know of the incredible advances in health care and educational provision that technology can deliver. 

However, as Trade Unionists we know that many issues do and always will remain the same.  No matter what the advancement is, be it the printing press or the latest app, it is our job to ensure that these developments are not achieved at the expense of dignity and fairness for workers and the wider community.

When we speak about technology, we marvel at the great entrepreneurship and creativity of innovators.  I share this admiration, and salute these advancements.  However, here at home and internationally, it is time for Trade Unions to put down a challenge to the digital innovators. 

Use your creativity, use your tech savvy and brilliant minds to advance our economy and society, but do it in a way that not just makes a lot of money, but in a way that respects the working conditions of not just your direct employees, but everyone in your supply chain.  This is how we as a Union movement can campaign in a progressive way to be relevant in a digital age.

But we must also challenge ourselves.  The Financial Services Union is a proud, progressive Union, proud of our part in the wider movement. 

Our challenge is to match the creativity and agility of digital economy entrepreneurs with our own creativity and savvy in how we organise in modern workplaces.  We are committed to growing.  To grow in existing financial institutions, and to grow in our new markets be they workers in call centres or working from home for a fintech company. 

We are always cognisant that we need to represent not just our members, but financial services workers who should be our members.

We all know that hard-fought wins like secure employment, work/life balance and dignity in retirement are under threat.  So let’s challenge the digital creators to use their creativity not just for profit for better work and better lives.   But above all, let’s challenge ourselves.  Let’s win again for workers and the wider community.  We owe it to all the Trade Unionists who have gone before us, and we owe it to our future generations. 

Thank you.