Artificial Intelligence Is A Collective Bargaining Issue

Unite National Officer for the Graphical Paper, Media and IT Sector and the Service sector Louisa Bull tells the European TUC that companies in AI have a  business model that is based on the exploitation of its workers.

Like any technological change the key to ensuring worker participation and protection within the process, is to make it an integral part of our collective bargaining.

In doing so we ensure that we negotiate agreements about the introduction, application, and governance of any technological change and right now one of those is algorithmic management tools in the workplace. 

Unions need to make sure that they are aware of what surveillance and performance monitoring tools are actually being used in our workplaces and how they are replacing human intervention.  It is never acceptable to pass off responsibility for key decisions to non-human agents and yet that is happening.

Algorithms should advise, and humans should decide,  it is that simple –  and yet we have much still to do in stopping this trend as our sister Sarka from the women’s committee explained yesterday afternoon.

Uni Europa has recently produced a guide on algorithm management and this has helped to inform the work of our affiliates.  My own federation the TUC has done great work on this as well in producing a strong manifesto for workplace bargaining  and in producing e-learning tools for reps in the UK

The second area in which we need to be vigilant is in the services sector where digital labour platform companies have grown exponentially -particularly since the pandemic- and often with a business model that is based on the exploitation of its workers. 

The use of bogus self-employment and the avoidance of employers’ responsibilities towards workers and the state is a dangerous trend that must be stopped. UNI Europa has been working with its affiliates to strengthen their capacity to organise and bargain collectively in the platform economy and has been engaged in the effort at the European Union level to have adequate legislation that protects workers.

Finally, UNI Global Union, and us in UNI Europa are a leading voice in the large coalition of actors loudly telling Jeff Bezos and Amazon to end union busting practices, Amazon embodies in one company most of the risks that the trade union movement is facing: algorithmic surveillance, platformisation, bogus self-employment and union busting.  Organising and delivering trade union collective rights to workers across the new digital and tech sectors, giving everyone a strong collective voice.  

This is not an easy task but globally we are hopeful having seen recent growth within Google and the signing of the first EWC this year that included workers from both the UK and Switzerland was a great success.  

In the UK along with our sister union the CWU we are now building for recognition and collective bargaining.  So it is possible to win but we have to work together to make this happen.

Louisiana Bull’s speech to the European TUC Congress May 24th.

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