Using mobile apps. Photo PeopleImages / Getty Images

Unions and digital disruptors

TUC Digital Lab report

In recent years, new digital start-ups have changed the faces of whole industries. New entrants have risen to dominance in their sectors and previously major players have collapsed. The pace of change has only intensified with the digital-first response to Covid-19.

Unions aren’t commercial businesses but as organisations we don’t exist in a vacuum. We too can find our position eroded by disruptive innovation if we fail to understand how it works or adapt to it.

There are a growing number of new non-traditional actors providing ways for workers to access support and advice at work, or to come together to campaign or self-organise. These are often working in areas where unions have lower density, but some are also challenging unions for members in core sectors. Some are in a start-up stage, but others are already interacting with hundreds of thousands of workers.

A number of unions have already responded with programmes of digital innovation, drawing on lessons from the ways digital disruptors operate. These might seek to access new groups of potential members, develop the union experience to match rising expectations from members, or enhance the core strengths that differentiate us.

Unions need to be engaging in a strategic conversation about what disruptors mean to our areas of activity, and what our responses should be – whether as a movement or more locally for different unions, sectors or particular challenges.

This Digital Lab report looks into where unions’ own disruptors may come from and how we might respond to new players in our changing landscape.

Download the full report

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