Unions and Digitalisation (UDIG) is a two-year research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, involving researchers at De Montfort and Cardiff universities in the UK. The project explores how unions in the UK and Norway are engaging with digitalisation as they seek to shape better outcomes for workers.

Digitalisation raises many questions for the future of work, with intense debate surrounding the potential implications for employment and job quality. However, outcomes are not determined by technology and there is scope for social actors to shape how this plays out. Trade unions are potentially important actors but relatively little research has explored how unions are engaging with these challenges.

The project addresses three research questions:

1. How far do unions at national and workplace level agree on how to respond to robotics/AI?

2. How far are unions able to influence their implementation in the workplace?

3. What opportunities and constraints do unions encounter in seeking to deliver better outcomes for workers?

The project focuses on lower-level and intermediate-level workers in four sectors:

  • shop-floor workers in retail;
  • operatives in food and drink processing;
  • administrative and clerical workers in financial services;
  • administrative and clerical workers in hospitals.

The project involves interviews with trade unionists at national, regional and workplace level in the four sectors in Norway and the UK. The researchers seek to involve trade unions in shaping the research project and to use the findings to help inform union strategies around digitalisation. A series of seminars and interactive workshops will be organised with the relevant unions to discuss findings and options for future approaches.