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TUC 2019: workers must benefit from automation says Community

9th September 2019

“We can make AI work or everyone…”

This week, Community delegates are attending the TUC Congress 2019 in Brighton. The Congress brings together reps from across the union movement to debate trade union priorities for the year ahead. One of the motions involving Community is on automation and artificial intelligence and how it affects working people. Dean Cox, a community activist and one of our roving reps in the Midlands, spoke on the motion. His speech is below (CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY).

“Congress, there is no doubt there are brilliant examples of artificial intelligence helping to solve some of the world problems. Whether it is in healthcare or support services, there are huge possibilities of artificial intelligence tackling humanitarian challenges.

“There are also huge challenges in ensuring humans benefit from its rapid advancement. Take prejudice as an example. We all know prejudice exists against certain groups of people and has serious consequences in the workplace.

“And if done properly, artificial intelligence has the potential to help strip out prejudice. We’re already seeing those changes being used in job interviews, if you’re taking out a loan, or even getting a mortgage.

“But we have serious concerns about the algorithmic bias being used in those decision makings. Whether it’s the discrimination of women or people from ethnic minority backgrounds, there are crucial questions for unions around who is building the technology and where the data is coming from to identify biases early on. That’s why we need new legislation and enforcement on the fair use of algorithms in workplace decision making.

“And it has to be trade unions who are at the forefront of that legislation, and campaigning for the ethical and socially responsibly development of AI and new technology.

“And congress, we should be going even further than that. Trade unions and employees should be part of a consultation through any automation processes or changes in technology in the workplace. And we should be introducing new technology agreements in our collective bargaining arrangements to ensure every worker receives the support they are entitled to at work.

“Congress, managed correctly we have the opportunity to create positive change for workers. Moving towards shorter hours for the same pay, better work environments and safer workplaces, boosting productivity, and crucially, ensuring a diverse group of people are brought into the world of artificial intelligence by giving people of all different backgrounds an opportunity to be involved and to shape it.

“By working with employers, we can help all workers to prosper in our rapidly changing and advancing economy. And if done properly, we can make AI work for everyone.”

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