Tech workers need a collective voice

09 Sep 2019

A Prospect motion calling for a greater role for workers in developing and deploying new technology at work was passed by delegates at the Trades Union Congress in Brighton.

Prospect vice president Ele Wade said technology has been changing the world of work for centuries and this has created challenges and opportunities for workers.

“The challenge for our time is how we handle the use of data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning,” she said.

She pointed to a growing awareness of bias becoming embedded in algorithms.

New tech could be used to monitor workers or replace them; or it could be used to make work safer and more interesting as artificial intelligence takes on monotonous tasks.

Prospect is already seeing the impact of this technology in areas as diverse as nuclear decommissioning and climate science.

Wade argued that it is our job as trade unionists to put workers in the driving seat of this change, including by helping to develop tech workers’ collective voice such as those in the recent Google walkouts.

A recent poll by Prospect found that 58% of workers felt they have no say in the implementation of new tech at work.

Ele concluded by saying that although this seems like “daunting new territory”, unions have the experience to improve the working lives of these workers.

You can read the full text of the motion on p20 of the conference agenda.