A snapshot of workers in Wales’ understanding and experience of AI

Ceri Williams
Policy officer - Wales TUC
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
AI-powered worker surveillance
Union reps in other sectors reported how AI was intensifying an age-old concern for workers: surveillance and intrusions on autonomy and privacy.

A civil servant said that software-based workplace surveillance appeared to be

“driven by a lack of trust in staff and pressures on budgets which require everyone to work even harder”.

They reported it had a counterproductive effect on employee morale.

A union rep at a large delivery company said:

AI-powered worker surveillance

“My colleagues have experienced the overbearing use of technology to push for better performance. Workers are now issued with electronic devices with GPS trackers. If we stop for one minute a yellow dot comes up on a map – and it is reported to a manager.”

The rep reported how electronic surveillance was having a dehumanising effect on workers, with unfair disciplinary measures being taken due to data-based systems failing to understand contextual issues:

“There may be very good reasons for a one-minute stop. For example, you could be talking to a customer. The new system can lead to people being hauled in for a conversation and told 'you stopped for fifteen minutes over the course of a week; effectively you weren’t working then.' They are asked to justify themselves."

According to workers at a large manufacturing site, this dehumanising effect is also present in HR practices:

“The risk is that we are losing the human elements in HR through automation and remoteness. There is no benefit of the doubt, no grey area. I know we are told that computers can’t get it wrong, but they can get it wrong. They are just doing what they are told. There’s no human element in there.”

In 2022, the TUC warned that intrusive worker surveillance tech driven by AI risked "spiralling out of control” without stronger regulation to protect workers. Polling conducted by Britain Thinks, revealed 60 per cent of workers believed they have been subject to some form of surveillance and monitoring at their current or most recent job.

In 2021, the All Party Parliamentary Group of the Future of Work reported the impact of surveillance on workers, finding that

“pervasive monitoring and target setting technologies, in particular, are associated with pronounced negative impacts on mental and physical wellbeing as workers experience the extreme pressure of constant, real-time micro-management and automated assessment.”

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