More and more workplaces are adopting new technologies. Unions can help ensure that workers benefit and don’t lose out.

What is the problem?

The introduction of new technology can have a negative effect on workers which include:

  • Reduced enjoyment: New technology is compromising the thing that workers say they tend to like most about their jobs – human interaction and communication.
  • Worse pay and conditions: Some workers feel that new technology puts pressure on them to work harder and do more for the same, or lower, pay.
  • Oppressive monitoring: Some employers are utilising new technology to implement extreme levels of workforce surveillance and control

On the other hand, if trade unions are involved and change is introduced in a rational way, new technology can improve the quality of working life.

  • Repetitive and mundane tasks can be reduced creating more time for more interesting and valuable work
  • New tools can make work more productive
  • Work can be made safer

What can unions do to help?

Unions and reps can help their members by negotiating with management about the introduction of new digital technologies.

Unions, public sector employers and the Welsh government have agreed to Principles on Digitalisation at the Workforce Partnership Council as part of the existing Partnership and Managing Change agreement.

Workers in the Welsh public sector can now request their employer meet the terms of the Fair Work principles namely:

  • Employee voice and participation – by including workers and unions in discussions about new technologies
  • Flexible and secure job change – by redeploying staff if their job is at risk
  • Opportunity for progression and growth – by providing opportunities for staff to retrain
  • Health, safety and well-being – by assessing the risk to staff of new technologies
  • Respecting workers’ rights – by giving a strong role to unions when new tech is introduced

In the private sector there are a growing number of examples where workers have reached similar agreements with their employers.

In November 2021 we held an event at the Senedd to discuss the impact of new technology and A.I on workers. The event was sponsored by Sarah Murphy MS and we were joined by Welsh Government Ministers, Senedd members, unions, and academics. Watch the event in full: