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PowerShare: Shaping Future Work

PowerShare is a multi-year independent inquiry into strategies for sharing power at work. Led by economist Jim Stanford, it is the first project of the Centre for Future Work (Canada) in partnership with the Atkinson Foundation and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

Everyone knows many forces are transforming work today: technology, business models, labour regulations and policies, social attitudes, and a global pandemic. What we don’t know is how workers will determine what work becomes. How can they use their collective voice and power to shape the future of work, and protect their interests?

“The traditional foundations of worker power in workplaces – such as unions and collective bargaining, wage regulations, and occupational demarcations – have been challenged by digital technology, the growth of platform work and ‘gigs’, and a creeping individualization of work culture and employment relations,” explains Jim. “But an efficient and fair labour market needs effective structures and practices through which workers have the voice and power to create a world of better, fairer work.”

He asks: “How can traditional mechanisms of worker voice and agency evolve to reflect the new realities of work? And what new practices and structures could help to redress the imbalance between people who work for a living (in increasingly varied ways) and those they work for?”

Jim and his collaborators will research and publish a series of papers over the course of this project. Topics under consideration include:

  • Trade Union Responses to the Changing Future of Work: Lessons from Canadian and International Experience
  • Identity and Collective Power: How Gender, Racial, and Cultural Communities of Interest can Build Stronger Voice and Agency
  • A Workers’ Agenda for Regulating Technological Change
  • The Economic and Social Benefits of Worker Voice: Why Inclusive Workplaces Work Better
  • Environmental Transitions, the Future of Work, and Worker Agency

The Centre’s first major research paper, to be published this spring, will examine how jobs can and should be improved in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. For a taste of what’s to come, read Jim’s Five Contrarian Ideas on the Future of Work commissioned by Atkinson for the International Labour Organization’s centenary in 2019.

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