New technology - the challenge to unions: a comparative view

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The article dispels misconceptions that trade unions always oppose technological innovations in industries. In spite of all the speculation about current technological changes heralding a new industrial and social revolution, many of the industrial relations issues are not new; essentially they are those of the first industrial revolution. It is important to distinguish the position of individuals or groups from that of unions as collective organizations. Most union leaders publicly welcome involvement in new technologies. Technological change should not cause any loss of jobs. If it is used to increase productivity, the output or service should be increased rather than the volume of labor decreased. Employers should pay extra money to the people who learn new skills. Even if no new skills are required, technological change should be accompanied by a pay increase rather than a reduction. In exchange for a high level of pay, for example, some workers may be willing to tolerate a repetitive job design or unsafe working conditions. Hence, it is important to distinguish between union policies and union responses in practice. In conclusion, technological change is not a discrete issue that can be dealt with separately from most other issues associated with the employment relationship. Most elements of our typical union policy were on union agendas long before microelectronics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-508
Number of pages7
JournalLabor Law Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • technology
  • unions
  • industrial relations
  • labor law

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