The Workers Union is calling for controls on monitoring performance at work.
The announcement was made in the wake of a new all-party parliamentary group (APPG) report (The New Frontier: Artificial Intelligence at Work) that suggests that using AI tech to monitor how workers are performing is damaging to their mental health.
The report says 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.’
The report also recommends legislating to deal with the issue, with the authors suggesting that an “accountability for algorithms” act would help ensure that employers using AI technology put the mental health of their workers first. It would also allow workers to be involved in the design of these systems, which often have executive power over hiring, firing and work allocation.
Conservative chair of the APPG on the future of work, David Davis, said: ‘Our inquiry reveals how AI technologies have spread beyond the gig economy to control what, who and how work is done. It is clear that, if not properly regulated, algorithmic systems can have harmful effects on health and prosperity.’
A spokesperson for The Workers Union said: ‘We welcome any moves to challenge the increasing autonomy of technology that negatively affects people’s working lives. Used correctly, tech can help gild the future for all of us. But used indiscriminately, its lack of human feeling and nuance can and does cause untold anguish for workers on the receiving end of its decisions.’
The Workers Union Says…
Imagine setting out to deliver four pizzas. You’re confident that you’ll meet the targets set by the invisible adjudicator on your app, but that confidence soon dissolves once the traffic starts to build. It’s raining heavily, too, and there’s been an accident on your usual route. Meanwhile the AI clock is ticking in the background and didn’t one of your friends lose shifts last week because she failed to deliver an order on time?
That, in a nutshell, is what it feels like for people whose lives are ruled by AI. The constant surveillance is as wearing as the knowledge that you’re only ever one delay away from being fired. There is no dignity here, no attempt to understand the kind of challenges that working people face in their day-to-day lives.
This faceless digital dictatorship must stop before it becomes so embedded that people feel powerless to challenge it. Inaction now could have long-term consequences for our democratic traditions. We’ve seen how that turned out in other countries at other times: we would be foolish to start down that road, here.
The Workers Union – fighting for social justice, fighting for you