The Labour Movement and the Internet: Chapter 5 (Selection)
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The Labour Movement and the Internet

Chapter 5 (Selection)

National Trade Union Networks

A few short years ago, writing this chapter would have been extraordinarily easy. There were already local trade union experiments in networking back then. And some international trade union bodies (like the ITSs) were using telematics. But on a national level there was really only SoliNet in Canada. I could have asked Marc Belanger for a few words on that, and the issue would have been settled.

Today, there is no way anyone can write a comprehensive and up to date account of national trade union use of computer communications. Too many countries are already involved and the situation is far too fluid.

The best one can do is to produce a snapshot of labournets at the national level, which is what I have done here. This is the situation at the middle of 1996 in seven countries spread out over four continents. (At the end, I make brief observations on ten other countries as well.)

The material cannot be comprehensive even within a country. In some countries, not only does the national trade union centre have an online presence, but so do many trade unions. I will make no effort to report on all those unions, and will instead focus on a few examples in each country. Nor will I make a special effort to be comprehensive when it comes to other institutions connected to the labour movement (such as labour parties and workers education associations), though some of these will be mentioned in passing.

One trend which has become clear recently is the increasing involvement of national trade union centres (particularly in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) in the process of going online. Some of these centres previously had nothing more than a single email address; today they are offering Web sites, online mailing lists, conferences, databases -- and support for affiliated unions.

What the future will bring is already pretty clear: more online discussion groups, more electronic publishing, more use of email in internal and external trade union communication. We begin with the country whose trade union movement's founder once summed up the program of organised labour in that one word: "more."

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Copyright 1996 by Eric Lee.