The Eurocadres blog

Employability and trade unions

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New technologies and an ever faster changing labour market requires of employees to adapt their skills and competences to stay employable. Trade unions have huge potential to accompany their members in this process.

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One of the most important task for trade unions in our times is, to address the question about our members’ employability. Traditionally trade unions consider wages and employment security as their most important tasks.

But ask yourself a question: What are good wages and job security worth if you do not have the necessary skills to fulfill the requirements of the job? Of course, trade unions engaging in employment security can help you for some time – but if you do not have the skills for the job, engagement in employment security cannot help you. In the long run, either the employee will lose his/her job, or the company will be out of business – and at the final end all the employees will lose their jobs.

"What are good wages and job security worth if you do not have the necessary skills to fulfill the requirements of the job?"

Time is changing the labor market. New technology, new ways of doing thing, new professions in the labor market, all these things change the labor market. It changes the necessary skills to fulfill a job. In this development some of our members are losing their employability. Meaning their capacity to gain and maintain a job, simply because of skills mismatch. The needed skills have changed, but some of our members did not develop their skills further, and they are outdated today. They lack the necessary skills to gain and maintain their employment.

Whom to blame? The employers? Of course, they should continuously enable the development of their employee’s skills. Some do that, and do it well. But some do not, maybe because they do not want to pay for it, maybe they cannot afford it, maybe they themselves do not see the changes, or there are any other reason for not doing it.

Who else to blame? The employees? They of course cannot take responsibility for the company. But the employee is also a professional in a certain sector and business. As a professional they do have a responsibility to see and understand that their profession is changing. But do they have the necessary skills to see and understand the changes? Do they have the necessary possibility to act on it?

Who else to blame? Trade unions? Most of all. Trade unions have the resources, and should have the knowledge and necessary skills to see how sectors and business and the skills bounded to it are changing. It should be a core competence of a trade union – who else should know?

"Trade unions have the resources, and should have the knowledge and necessary skills to see how sectors and business and the skills bounded to it are changing. It should be a core competence of a trade union – who else should know?"

And with that knowledge the trade unions of course have a responsibility to act. They have to tell their members that skills are changing and members have to keep up with it. They have to tell the employer that skills are changing, and if his/her employees do not have the needed skills, the employers in the long run will be out of business – and his/her employees will lose their jobs.

The trade unions have a huge responsibility to help their members to ensure their employability. Who else should take over that responsibility?

 

Michael Tottrup

The author

Michael Tøttrup
Trade Union Officer, PROSA – Danish Federation of IT Professionals