January 2022 – IFWEA e-learning developer Melanie Julie (pictured) spoke to DGB Bildungswerk about the recent training sessions on Digital Tools and Methods for Conducting Online Trade Union Activities. The article appeared in the DGB Bildungswerk newsletter:
With the advance of the Corona pandemic, countless union education projects around the world have been dashed. Face-to-face events and travel have not been possible. And so trade unionists switched to digital possibilities. This meant that a lot of improvisation was done. The International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA) and the educational institution of the DGB wanted to contribute to a systematic approach, and therefore launched a digital training course.
Melanie Julie is an e-learning developer at IFWEA and co-led the first recent training. The goal was to familiarise union trainers and leaders with digital tools and methods to enable effective online union activities during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, she says. The course was attended by interested parties from three global trade union federations – Public Services International (PSI), the International Domestic Workers Association (IDWF) and the IndustriALL Global Union – from Africa, Latin America and Asia. “There was a lot of interest from individuals from different regions around the world,” Julie said. Because only 34 interested parties could be admitted, they want to offer the course again in 2022.
Participating and sharing
The training took nine weeks. Participants in the first round learned how to organise online meetings, online forums, webinars, study circles, online workshops and online courses. Online workshops were held twice a week, during which tasks that the trainees had received and worked on in groups were also discussed. For example, they were to practice working together with the various digital tools – including Google Meet, Zoom, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. “These group activities offered participants with different digital skills the opportunity to learn from each other,” says Melanie Julie. Finally, the participants organised their own online activities. They could choose to host their own online workshop, webinar, online study group, online forum, or course.
One of the participants was Sandra van Niekerk from PSI in South Africa. “I wanted to learn more about online training and engagement on union issues,” she says. “I didn’t really know beforehand what possibilities there were.” Through the training, she got to know tools that she can now use to set up meetings, forums and for online interaction. “I also learned tools to develop my own online course,” she says. She finds that very exciting, especially as because for the past two years, Covid-19 has prevented travel. “It has become very important to explore online learning opportunities,” she says.
Costs are lower
During the training, the South African developed a course on the subject of the public sector and climate. In doing so, she wanted to convey why it is important for trade unions to take up the issue of climate change. “Climate change is affecting the work of public sector workers,” she says. For example, those at the forefront of extreme weather events, or for employees in the water, electricity, health and waste industries. In addition, other campaign areas are linked to climate change, on which PSI focuses – such as tax justice, debt, migration and high-quality public services.
“So far, I have only conducted pilot courses,” says Sandra van Niekerk. The response was very positive. However, she will probably not offer her course as pure online training in the future, because internet connections in many African countries are simply too bad. “We have to do it as a hybrid course – with the materials and resources available online, but the participants meeting physically,” she says.
Sandra van Niekerk is convinced that the digital methods of trade union work taught in the training open up new possibilities. “In an interesting way, material can be made available quickly,” she says. “We can attract more people to attend courses because the costs are lower.”
The author: Anja Krüger works as a journalist in Berlin.