If you’ve forgotten how ingrained automation is, just take a look around at the self-checkout machines dominating supermarkets.
This process opens up a lot of questions about the fate of workers but, in the United Kingdom, some groups are using automation to push for their own benefits.
Earlier this week, the UK’s Office of Data and Statistics released a report and found that 1.5 million workers are at “high risk” of losing their jobs to automation. According to the report, women and part-time workers were especially vulnerable, accounting for 70.2 percent and 69.9 percent of employees at risk, respectively.
No matter what, this will have big consequences for workers in the UK — but who says they have to be totally screwed? Unite, a trade union in the UK is using this report to call for a shorter work week, according to Gizmodo. That might seem counterintuitive, but the executive officer for Unite, Sharon Graham, laid it all out in a statement:
“New technology is going to generate a lot of wealth. We will fight to make sure this wealth is used to do things that help workers and their families, such as reducing working time without loss of pay. Automation needs to deliver for ordinary people, not just make bigger profits for corporations.”
- – Gizmodo
It is valid to have concerns about how automation may negatively affect people, but Unite shows how workers can leverage changes in technology for their own gain.
As Graham went on to say, according to Gizmodo, “A shorter working week without loss of pay can help workers stay in work when new technology reduces the number of tasks that need to be done by people…The gains from technology should be used to change the lives of working people including better retirements and shorter working time.”
The battle for a shorter work week — without docking employees pay — won’t be easy. Often, technology is posed as a way for businesses to cut costs. However, tech shouldn’t be viewed as a way to only benefit a few. It should be seen as a way to make everyone’s lives better.
The UK isn’t the only country where people are asking for a shorter work week. The conversation often pops up across the United States. A report from the Brookings Institute earlier this year found that a quarter of U.S. workers are at risk from automation, according to Press Herald.
Working conditions in the UK and the U.S. aren’t the exact same, but people can still take inspiration from one another. Organizations here should definitely take account of how workers in the UK are responding to automation.