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

Ceri Williams
Policy officer - Wales TUC
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Automating decision-making
Alongside generative AI and AI-enabled surveillance, workplaces are rolling out ‘automated decision-making’ (ADM) systems with impacts on worker autonomy, quality of work and workloads.

A civil servant handling sensitive case work issues said that ADM was having the effect of putting more pressure on the workers, rather than alleviating it.

They stated that the system’s crude tracking did not account for qualitative aspects of different casework. The system “picked up when you start a piece of work and when you end it but not the middle bit when you’re considering the detailed legal side” they said.

Managers were then subjecting workers to disciplinary and performance management processes based on this simplistic data, claiming that workers were taking longer than necessary without the requisite context.

One former worker at an electricity company reported that he and hundreds of other colleagues were made redundant by their employer who used an algorithmic analysis to inform the redundancy decisions.

“We were told by the managers ‘we’ve used the algorithm before, it’s tried and tested, it’s very accurate in its predictions’.  But what I’m hearing is they realise they’ve made a massive mistake.  They are now looking at recruiting people again”.

Staff at a manufacturing plant, who were highly skilled in utilising machines, reported that AI was being added to ageing automated machinery, with the result that it did not always work.

“If the new AI system encounters a problem,” said one worker, “it then asks staff to take over from there. Any time it had something it didn’t know it would say ‘you can have it back now.’”

These cases demonstrated a recurrent theme from the focus groups: that managers and employers often may not fully understand the technologies and its applications to work processes.

Whether AI is generating text and images, monitoring workers or taking decisions, it is having a significant impact on all areas of work.  Some of these will relate to the regulatory roles of the Welsh Government and its sponsored bodies.  FE lecturers’ concern about assessing course work is such an example, which could be a matter for Qualifications Wales to consider.

It is likely that other instances will arise in other parts of the devolved public sector.  Therefore, we recommend that the Welsh Government and the WPC consider AI’s impact on devolved regulation related to the workplace, for example in education and health.

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