Building worker power in data & tech

Andrew Pakes · 16 November 2021

Digital and communications technology is transforming our world. Growth in tech industries is changing the economy.

Their expansion is only made possible by the talent, expertise, and hard work of increasing numbers of skilled professionals, attracted by what can be a dynamic and exciting working life. But conditions, cultures and career paths are often not what they should be.

Around the world workers in technology companies are getting organised. Conversations around the gender pay gap, long hours, stress, diversity, company cultures and the ethical and social responsibilities that must accompany these powerful new technologies are starting to spread. More people are choosing to join a union.

Here in the UK, Prospect has brought together our new Tech Sector to provide better opportunities to organise, involve and build a credible voice for workers in digital technology. We already represent more than 16,000 people working in IT, tech, gaming, and telecoms. Our members include increasing numbers of coders, software engineers, IT architects, data analysts, visual FX, cloud specialists, network engineers, cybersecurity specialists, and others across the private and public sectors.

We have influential branches established with a number of major employers in tech and telecoms, and our new National Tech Branch is bringing together and empowering new members across a wide range of companies.

We support our members career development with advice on issues like training and pay. We provide legal protection and representation when needed. We are practiced in supporting freelancers across a range of industries.  And we have a track record of effectively challenging inequality and discrimination in all its forms, which we are determined to extend further into the sector so that it can become truly representative and inclusive.

We are at the forefront of tackling the many challenges on new working patterns, digital rights and ensuring human accountability in an AI-driven economy. We’ve been challenging the growth of digital surveillance, campaigning for flexible working rights and a new digital Right To Disconnect, and lobbying government to ensure workers’ rights are part of its AI Strategy. We are campaigning to ensure existing privacy rights under GDPR are protected and that employers engage workers over our data – as the law says they must. We need to update our employment laws to keep them fit for purpose for the way AI and monitoring tech is being used on us.

But there is much more to do. Workers have power when they join together. To change work for the better, we need to organise better – helping to make trade unions relevant for a new generation of workers in new and fast-changing industries.

Politics and society cannot keep playing catch-up as technology races ahead and industries are disrupted and restructured, transforming the world of work at accelerating speed. Prospect is working with the TUC and other unions in the UK and building alliances with unions around the world to test and develop new approaches to give technology and communication workers improved job quality and a stronger voice in their companies and industries.

This is our bat signal to the workers the coalface of the technological revolution we are now living through: as your work changes our world, we are changing as a union so we can help change your working life for the better.

Andrew Pakes is Prospect’s research director

Information Technology & Telecoms

Prospect represents more than 16,000 people working in Information Technology and Telecoms – one of the UK’s fastest moving industries.

Union for tech workers

For a better, healthier and fairer tech industry.