The research “Trade union transformation in the digital economy: the case of the Federation of Mongolian Education and Science Unions (FMESU)” highlights the challenges the union faces related to the impact of the digital transition.
It looks into strategic areas for the union transformation and how and why the use of technologies could add value to union’s organising and outreach efforts in the future.
The report notes that union renewal in the education sector is a comprehensive process that partly includes developing new strategies to reach grassroots members, mobilise membership, and build effective in-and-out communication by taking advantage of digital technologies. Current challenges brought by technological advances and digitalisation require considerable investments and resources from the education unions in terms of training and skills upgrading to smooth the digital transition.
In her opening remarks at the webinar launching the research, Education International’s President, Susan Hopgood, recognised that the research “provides comprehensive and insightful findings into the FMESU’s transformation journey. The research, based on a wide-ranging survey, is an effort to understand and respond to the challenges that the FMESU is facing in its work of representing and protecting teachers’ rights and interests.”
Hopgood recalled that the 2019 Education International Congress adopted the resolution “Education union renewal – the new imperative” and mandated the EI Executive Board to identify and facilitate opportunities to share the knowledge, expertise, and reflections of Education International’s affiliates in relation to union building and union renewal.
She went to remark that while the COVID-19 pandemic has put education work under strain, it has also accelerated and made urgent the need for unions to adapt to new digital technologies, platforms, and networks.
Hopgood underlined: “The essential message conveyed by this research is that the project of union renewal requires a shift towards digital technology, but more than that, openness and dialogue, collaboration and teamwork that digital media and internet communication enables.
We hope that the FMESU will find this work useful in developing their strategies, action plans and evaluation processes for their organisation’s digital transformation and union renewal.
Further, we hope that this report will stimulate new thinking and discussion on our larger project of union renewal, and lead to more fruitful, more effective interventions on the ground that revitalise, strengthen, and enrich the work of teacher unions worldwide.”
Also welcoming participants, FMESU President Tsogtgerel Zambal noted that, “based on the recommendations of the study, we are redesigning our strategic planning to improve the work of the union, reflect the interests of its members and meet their needs”.
For Benedikt Ivanovs, Country Director for the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Mongolia, “we will continue to work on the points of concern, but also the possibilities shown by the research to re-examine union strategy. Our common task is to look at the findings and bring the recommendations to life.”
Presenting the report’s key findings, researcher Gantuya Ariunsan focused on: FMESU as a trade union; FMESU and social dialogue; FMESU and the digital economy; and COVID-19 and the future of work in the education sector.
He highlighted recommendations in terms of:
- Organisational development (e.g. automatising the reporting of implementation and financing of the action plans of the committees and make them available to the relevant members as well as reducing manual tasks through automatization in the process of membership registration, creating databases, consolidating records, and archiving).
- Professional development of union members (e.g. taking the lead in creating a policy environment to address issues such as e-learning, e-resources, related copyright issues, digital labour and its evaluation, or initiating activities to increase the digital competency of human resources in the education sector and help acquire the necessary skills).
- Communication (e.g. introducing sustainable channels to ensure information transparency at all levels and solve them through digital platforms or providing top-down and bottom-up information flow, reducing the involvement of committee supervisors in the process of disseminating information to members).
- Members’ engagement (e.g. organising a series of events to introduce new members to the advantages of unionisation, and changing the content of introductory training into a member-centered content, or making information about FMESU and its activities available to the general public and non-members).
Panel: “Trade Union Renewal – the union examples”
This presentation was followed by a panel discussion and sharing of experiences from unions undergoing the union renewal process in the Asia-Pacific region. The panel discussion was facilitated by FMESU’s International Secretary Tsetsegmaa Gendenjamts.
Ruby Ana Bernardo of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in the Philippines presented her union's struggle to ensure union organising and union renewal in times of pandemic and governmental harassment.
She mentioned that ACT strives for solid organising, doing its outmost to always connect with members, developing professional development programmes and a recognition programme for the most active school districts, and agreeing that social media is an increasingly important channel of communication.
On leadership issues, she insisted that ACT values young educators, women leadership, sharing of experiences, as well as democratic process and inclusive consultations.
Nitin Kumar, Project Coordinator of the Trade Union Transformation project with All India Primary Teachers’ Federation (AIPTF) explained how union branches in diverse states benefited from the potential of information technology in building and supporting union membership.
For Nicole Calnan, Deputy Federal Secretary of the Australian Education Union, “it is exciting to be part of and be involved in union renewal. We want to ensure the longevity of our union structures and achieve our strategic objectives. We also want to build strong, powerful unions in the region.”
The way forward
In his concluding remarks, Education International’s Asia-Pacific Chief Regional Coordinator, Anand Singh, explained that the aim is to develop a concrete model to strengthen unions and support union renewal in the Asia-Pacific region.
FMESU President Tsogtgerel Zambal closed the webinar by saying: ‘We hope that the research ‘Trade union transformation in the digital economy: the case of FMESU, Mongolia’ will be relevant not only for Mongolia, but also for other countries in the Asia-Pacific region”.