Collective voice needed as new ‘industrial revolution’ looms, CWU tells Congress

New technologies and artificial intelligence have enormous potential to improve the world of work and wider society, but unions must campaign together as never before to ensure the so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ doesn’t turn into a Frankenstein’s monster

That was the stark message delivered by CWU deputy general secretary (T&FS) Andy Kerr yesterday (Monday) at TUC Congress in Brighton.  Speaking in support of a successful Prospect motion calling on TUC affiliated unions to work collectively to ensure the ‘new world of work’ works for everybody, Andy warned a strong trade union voice is needed to ensure that, instead of extending  social justice, the technological transformation that is already getting underway  doesn’t instead exacerbate inequality, potentially plunging millions into poverty.

“As the eminent physicist Stephen Hawking said in 2015, ‘it’s capitalism we should be scared of, not robots’,” explained Andy.

“Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared…but so far technology is driving ever-increasing inequality.”

Continuing in his own words, Andy added: “Millions of jobs are set to be replaced by robots, and whilst millions will also be created there are huge doubts about the quality of those new jobs, many of which will be low-skilled and low paid.

“What is certain, however, is that artificial intelligence will impact to a certain extent on all our sectors.”

Speaking just over a week after making a keynote speech on exactly  same subject at Uni Global Union’s information, communication, technology and services (ICTS) sector conference in Kuala Lumpur  – Andy reiterated the message that it’s vital unions work together to proactively challenge common threats to their memberships rather than allow themselves to be buffeted by unstoppable technological developments.

“Trade unions have a huge role to play in supporting workers through these difficult and uncertain times,” he stressed.

“We need to ensure that our members have control and can make agreements, through collective bargaining, over the introduction of technology in the workplace that impacts on job numbers.

“We need to be securing commitments from government and agreements with employers so that our members have access to the skills and training they need to adjust to this rapidly changing world of work.”

Insisting that trade unions have no time to waste in adjusting to the changing world of work, Andy concluded: “Changes are already moving at pace. We need to start campaigning now to ensure the workers’ voice is heard.”