Business

Rebuilding trust: Why workers must be included in decision-making

Workers and their unions must be actively involved in decision-making processes at the local, national, and global levels.

Workers and their unions must be actively involved in decision-making processes at the local, national, and global levels. Image: Unsplash/Sam Moghadam Khamseh

Stephen Cotton
General Secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The world faces a pressing need to foster a sense of shared responsibility and collective action towards a more sustainable and inclusive future.
  • Workers are at the forefront of multiple transitions that shape our world and they, along with their unions, must be involved for meaningful change.
  • As the Forum's 2024 Annual Meeting convenes in Davos under the theme 'rebuilding trust', we must ensure that workers voices are heard, and their contributions valued in future decision-making.

As the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 convenes in Davos under the theme of ‘rebuilding trust’, the world faces a pressing need to foster a sense of shared responsibility and collective action towards a more sustainable and inclusive future. However, this will not be possible without the meaningful participation of workers – who are the backbone of our global economy.

Workers are at the forefront of multiple transitions that will shape the course of our world: the imperative to shift towards more sustainable industries, the rapid pace of technological advancements transforming industries, and the evolving geopolitical landscape impacting supply chains and labour markets.

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These transitions are not merely economic shifts; they are social and human transformations that demand a deeper understanding of the impact on working people and their families – and therefore society.

To navigate these transformative periods effectively and ensure equitable outcomes, workers and their unions must be actively involved in decision-making processes at the local, national, and global levels.

Their expertise, experience, and insights are indispensable in shaping policies, strategies, and investments that build sustainable industries and support workers' in protecting their rights and ensuring a just transition.

However, the reality is that workers often find themselves excluded from decision-making processes. Their voices are often unheard, their concerns dismissed, and their contributions undervalued. This exclusion erodes trust and undermines the legitimacy and the potential for success of decisions being made.

According to the last global poll conducted by the International Transport Workers’ Federation in 15 countries, 73% of people believe that the voice of transport workers are not adequately heard in decision-making processes that affect their work.

This lack of inclusion has significant consequences for workers, which include:

  • 40% of people believe that the safety and well-being of transport workers are negatively affected by decisions made without their involvement.
  • 39% of people believe that transport workers’ job security is undermined by decisions made without their input.
  • 31% of people believe that transport workers’ incomes are negatively affected by decisions made without their involvement.

Why building trust requires a paradigm shift

Building trust requires a paradigm shift, one that centres the voices, aspirations, concerns and expertise of workers in the very fabric of economic and social policy formulation.

It demands a commitment to genuine dialogue, meaningful engagement, and the recognition that workers are not merely passive recipients of change but active participants in shaping the future.

The call to build trust is not merely a platitude; it is a call to action, and that action begins with workers having a seat at the decision-making table.

The ITF, which represents more than 18.5 million transport workers from over 700 transport trade unions in 150 countries, has long advocated for workers' inclusion in decision-making processes. We believe that engaging with workers based on trust and good faith is crucial to succeeding in overcoming the global challenges we face.

Technological advancements are reshaping industries at an unprecedented pace. Workers are not spectators in this transformation; they are the ones adapting to, implementing, and often driving these changes.

Their expertise is indispensable in navigating the intricate landscape of innovation, whether that’s to make work safer or to ensure that the benefits are equitably distributed and that no one is left behind in the wake of progress.

The imperative to shift towards more sustainable economies is not an abstract notion but a tangible reality already felt by transport workers. Their insights into the practicalities of implementing sustainability measures are invaluable, and their commitment to a greener future is a driving force that cannot be ignored.

Workers’ experiences and understanding of the ground realities are indispensable for crafting policies that address the challenges arising from these shifts and fostering resilience in the face of uncertainty, which could not be in sharper focus following the worldwide chaos stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why workers must be at decision-making table

To achieve fairer economies and an effective and efficient transition, workers must be at the table. Their insights are crucial for ensuring that transformations do not come at the expense of their livelihoods, safety and dignity. Their participation is the bedrock of sustainable development, social progress and inclusive growth.

Workers' unions, as representatives of their collective interests, play a crucial role in this process. By including workers and their unions in decision-making – and collective bargaining – we foster an environment where trust is not just a lofty ideal but a tangible force for positive change.

Davos 2024, the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, provides an opportune moment for leaders to ensure that building trust is not just a theme but materializes as a lived reality for workers worldwide.

As organizations gather in Davos, we must reaffirm our commitment to building trust through inclusive decision-making. Workers are not just the backbone of our economy; they are the architects of a more equitable and sustainable future. Let us ensure that their voices are heard, their contributions valued and their participation central to the decisions that shape our world.

Together, we can build trust, foster collaboration, and navigate the challenges that lie ahead. With workers at the forefront, we can forge a path towards a future where all can thrive.

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