Responding to a debate on workplace automation at the Usdaw Annual delegate Meeting in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary said:
“Usdaw is not against new technology. We aren't burying our head in the sand about it. We recognise that there are some benefits that can improve members' working lives. If used correctly, technology has the potential to enhance productivity.
It can contribute to better, more rewarding jobs and to better paid jobs too, but this requires businesses to listen to workers and that means that the Government must recognise the important role unions can play.
“Usdaw is campaigning for a new legal right, a right to collective consultation on the introduction of new technology into workplaces. This would provide the opportunity for negotiators to protect jobs, looking at alternatives like redeployment, upskilling and training. To secure the best possible outcome for members.
“It is unacceptable for companies to introduce new technology as a way to reduce costs, with no thought for the impact on their workforce. Without consultation, the most likely outcome of automation is a widening of inequality. Inequality of wealth,
inequality of income and inequality of power.
This is something the trade union movement cannot allow to happen. We need to be actively involved in shaping the future of work. There is clear evidence that consultation, employee engagement and decent pay and conditions all contribute to an effective and productive workplace.
“Usdaw's focus is always to protect the jobs and livelihoods of our members and an important step to doing this is through collective consultation. Trade unions are crucial in minimising the impact of technology on the jobs market.
“We need to make sure that those workers affected by automation have the skills they need to progress into the jobs of the future and we need a robust strategy – with Government, business and trade unions all working together, to deal with the impact of automation.
“These measures will go some way to addressing the concerns of our members and protecting the livelihoods of those affected by automation. The introduction of new technology should not be made unilaterally. It should be done by agreement with a recognised trade union.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 420,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
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