The fourth industrial revolution is a serious concern to trade unions and humanity


The fourth industrial revolution is a serious concern to trade unions and humanity at large, providing capitalism platform to redefine itself.

The first industrial revolution used water and steam to mechanize mass production. Steam engines replaced a lot of human being (workers) in the production of things. The second industrial revolution used electric power to improve production. It clearly was an improvement of the steam revolution. Steam was transformed into electrical energy which was more usable than steam engines. The third industrial revolution used electronic to mechanize and improve mass production. The fourth industrial revolution is an improvement of the third industrial revolution. It is a digitized industrial revolution.

The fourth industrial revolution is the radical digital revolution which can be traced back to the beginning of the second half of the last century.  In all the industrial revolutions, from the first one to the forth one capitalism is trying to replace human activities (workers) with machinery. The fourth industrial revolution is therefore a serious concern to the trade unions and humanity at large. Capitalism is redefining itself. Capitalist want to maximize profit without them worrying about strikes and social responsibility of the workers. Capitalism is countering the emergence of trade unions. They know that machines will not require paid sick leave, paid maternity leave, paid paternity leave, paid family responsibility leave and paid annual leave. A machine does not take tea break, smoke break and lunch break. The machines do not need registration to COIDA, UIF, pension fund and /or provident fund. The use of machines will eliminate the human factor in the production circle.  

As trade unions we have a responsibility to research and educate society about this coming monster called the forth industrial revolution. The impact of the forth industrial revolution is already visible. It is already destroying jobs in the retail, transport, manufacturing, banking, security and mining sector. In the retail sector, there is what is called online shopping. Shopping is done without interacting with human beings (workers). It is done on internet, online without face to face interaction with human beings (workers). 

The only time a human being is involved is when it is delivered. There are many online shopping sites and many people are using these sites. What we don’t take into account when we use these services is that it reduces the amount of jobs in the retail sector. Most shops have introduced self-service tills. Shop will no longer require human beings (workers) in the tills as customers will be servicing themselves.

In the transport sector meter taxis are being replaced by digital taxi system. These systems use the cell phone Applications to operate a simple and reliable taxi system. Just like many of the new systems that are introduced by capitalism they are cheaper at the beginning. It is cheaper so that it can displace the old system. Once the old system is gone the price is adjusted to be higher than the previous system. We will be forced to use the new system no matter how expensive it is. That is how brutal the capitalist system is. The other coming technology in the transport sector is the transport system which will not require drivers to operate. It will be able to use the Geo Positioning System (GPS) to drive itself. The drivers (workers) will lose their jobs.

Manufacturing sector has been long digitized. In manufacturing factories robots have been introduced to replace human beings (workers). Work which was previously performed by 1000 workers, it is now done by less than 100 workers. The banking sector is also going completely digital. Internet and cellphone banking are replacing a lot of bank tellers. Now there is no need to go to the bank because one can do almost everything on the phone. They have also introduced what is called banking cellphone Applications. 

The final nail in the coffin of the banking sector is the introduction of the cryptocurrency (or crypto currency). Cryptocurrency is going to destroy the bank notes; probably even the buildings called the banks will disappear. Currency will be electronic and digitized. We will have no workers in this sector except the computer buffoons. The security sector is also replacing human being (workers) using the available technology. Electric fencing is used to protect building and other properties. Cameras have also been introduced to replace human beings (workers). In the place of 100 security personnel only 5 can do the job.

Mechanization is now destroying jobs in the mining sector. Mining was one of the biggest contributor in job creation in our economy. Today most mining companies are replacing human beings (workers) with machineries. Retrenchment is the order of the day. Some of the reasons that are given for mechanizing the mines are reasonable. It is said that some minerals are very deep underground that it is risky for human being (workers) to be sent underground.

Khangela Baloyi is National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Eskom Shopsteward based in Cape Town.