Unions: AI Summit ‘squeezes out’ workers
By Tony Burke
Trade unions including the TUC, Unite, the NUJ, the NEU, the AFL-CIO, the European TUC and the International Trade Union Confederation have accused Rishi Sunak of ‘squeezing outâ millions of workers from the Government’s flagship summit at Bletchley Park on Artificial Intelligence while giving pride of place to tech companies.
The âclosed doorâ summit is Rishi Sunakâs big idea to help polish up his battered image and in an effort to make the UK a centre of AI and digital development.
An open letter to Sunak signed by more than 100 individuals and groups says that: âFor many millions of people in the UK and across the world, the risks and harms of AI are not distant â they are felt in the here and now.”.
TUC assistant general secretary Kate Bell Â said: âAI is already making life-changing decisions â like how we work, how weâre hired and who gets fired. It shouldnât just be tech bros and politicians who get to shape the future of AI.â
The letter says that: âA handful of big tech companies will capture even more power and influence. A wide range of expertise and the voices of communities most exposed to AI harms must have a powerful say and equal seat at the table.â
Analysis by Goldman Sachs has estimated about two-thirds of occupations are exposed to AI, with systems able to carry out between a quarter and a half of their workload.
The two-day summit which starts on Wednesday and to which China has been invited (much to the chagrin of Tory backbenchers) and begins Wednesday will focus on specific risks which may be caused by AI, including its ability to assist in designing bio-weapons or generating code for cyber attacks.
But writing in the latest edition of the Media North newsletter Unite National Officer for the print, media, IT and the services sectors argued that AI must be an integral part of collective bargaining. Â âWe must ensure that we negotiate agreements about the introduction, application, and governance of any technological change and right now one of those is algorithmic management in the workplace.Â
âUnions need to make sure that they are aware of what surveillance and performance monitoring tools are actually being used and how they are replacing human intervention. Â It is never acceptable to pass off responsibility for key decisions to non-human agents and yet that is happening.
She cites Amazon as embodying most of the risks that the trade union movement is now facing in one company : algorithmic surveillance, platformisation, bogus self-employment and union busting. â
Tony Burke is the co-chair of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom