Publish date 13-09-2021
An entrepreneur and a trade unionist confronted with the transformations in the world of work.
Nothing will ever be the same again. The automation of production processes, the digital revolution, artificial intelligence, the request for new skills are not abstract concepts, but aspects that already affect and that will be decisive in the world of work. A radical transformation made up of lights and shadows that must be known, managed and guided. Alberto Dal Poz, president of Federmeccanica, and Roberto Benaglia, general secretary of Fim Cisl, guests of the University of Dialogue are convinced of this: an industrialist and a trade unionist consulted not as counterparts, but as careful observers of the transformations taking place.
What is actually happening?
Dal Poz- Today we have at our disposal inexpensive calculation tools that allow us to draw, plan, collect data, use highly advanced sensors. The manufacturing sector in general is now largely invested by these innovations, but the discourse applies to all areas. It is a revolution. I am thinking above all of all the sensors that our machines, our molds, our production tools can be equipped with: they need digital content which means not only investment in machinery, but also in the skills and training of our workers. A crucial aspect.
Such radical innovations upset the world of work: loss of jobs, professional figures that change. What are we missing?
Benaglia- It is difficult to calculate, but I say that we must not give up. I can certainly say that we risk losing a great many jobs if we don't equip the workers. Training becomes decisive because the machines do not go by themselves. We don't have to think or imagine a future where robots will manage everything themselves, with increasingly unemployed workers. The real theme is to accompany people in this change and to be able to specialize them, train them and give them the push, the competence starting from school. It will certainly be a selective process where many workers will make it and others will not. For this reason, new labor protection tools are also very important.
Benaglia- The laws that block layoffs are certainly useful, which avoid a free hand, but I say that the real protection against layoffs is to give workers adequate skills. Today we are dealing with a social blasphemy: on the one hand a very high rate of unemployment, especially among young people, on the other the reality of one in three companies that cannot find the profiles they are looking for. Is absurd. Productivity is not increased only with machinery or by telling workers: work harder. We need to work better and to do this we need skills and continuous training. For this reason, the issue of the relationship between school and work is a priority today because a country that spends on skills is a country that protects workers better.
In such a context, the gap between generations risks worsening. On the one hand digital young people, on the other adults and seniors struggling. What answer can the company give?
Dal Poz- Digital inequality is a general problem. A worker who is highly gifted in traditional professions, if he were not able to use even simple digital systems, would really be left behind. We must try to respond at different levels, even as institutional subjects. For example, as part of the contract that we signed together with all the trade union parties last February, the establishment of a national training commission is envisaged for these issues. We have to follow this path.
In a digital scenario, what happens to the value of labor, the importance of the worker disconnected from the machinery?
Benaglia- I answer with a play on words. More than manpower, today there is a need for a work mind in the sense that there will certainly remain many jobs, including manual ones. The machines are called by robotics to carry out above all tiring, dangerous, repetitive jobs. It is not that the worker will have to become an appendage of the robot, but he will have to govern it. And this is not easy, you have to be ready. The worker must put more skills, more knowledge, the work mind, his processing capacity. It is a process to accompany. Workers must not feel alone, they must be protected together and communities must be created within companies capable of being together in the best way.
Dal Poz- I agree. The point is the management of this step. Even in the smallest companies, not those that assemble a car but produce extremely simple products, there will be a need for a new management of the work and therefore it will probably be the machine itself that is used to become not an enemy of the worker but his ally. Because this fusion of skills, between what the worker can do and what the machinery can do, will be the keystone that will make work safer and the entire system more competitive. The question must also be seen positively.
But will there really be work for everyone in the future?
Benaglia- This is certainly a central question on the future of work. The big city-factories no longer exist, now there are factories of different types, but manufacturing is still a place where employment is substantially stable. The problem is that the labor market has become very large, especially in services of all kinds: IT, financial, highly skilled services but also modern low-skilled services. The most striking case is that of the riders, a real business managed by mobile phones and algorithms. I would say that we have to deal with a gap between skilled and low-skilled work. It is not enough to increase employment, it is necessary to bring low-skilled work to be protected, promoted and better paid. Otherwise we risk an inequality that will not be good for our cities and will not be good for the cohesion of the country.
Dal Poz- Once someone asked me if in the face of new technologies some attitudes of Luddism were justified, the movement of the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century that targeted machines, accused of taking away jobs. The situation returns a little. I answered this way: but if a robot takes away heavy work from workers, it somehow eliminates the risk of getting hurt and excessively fatiguing. And this is a value. But there is one more nuance: what do we say about all the workers who designed that robot? Those who built it? Those who carried it? Those who have installed it? Those who, during the life of the robot itself, customize it to adapt it to new needs? And those who one day will take it away to dispose of it? Where do we put them?
What will be the priorities in the post-pandemic?
Benaglia- We will have to be very vigilant on the issue of inequality. It would be terrible to see a country divided between those who make it and those who can't. We must do everything to avoid a war between the poor. The recovery plan can be a tool. There are no magic formulas but there is the great tradition of the economy that works: making investments, that is, bringing companies to invest again in this country, building infrastructures, simplifying, de-bureaucratising and strongly supporting work. There are two categories of workers who are coming out of the pandemic worse than others: young people and women. We must think above all of them.
What to say to young people entering the world of work today? What advice would you give?
Dal Poz- Passion is the keystone. Enrich your life with experiences that can complement you and which in turn will enrich your resume. If you play a sport, if you have a hobby, if you are dedicated to volunteering, if you love to do something, write it down when you talk about yourself. Never neglect foreign languages. And then enjoy your youth because no time in life. Knowing the world and the next, building now what you will be as an adult, knowing with certainty that one day you will treasure what you have learned.
NP Maggio 2021
A cura della Redazione (Deregistrazione dell'incontro UDD del 22/04/2021)
Per rivedere l'incontro clicca qui: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ7HPFE4hl0&t=4s