Unite calls for ‘automation commission’

In the face of the threats of automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to employment in the UK, Unite the union has called on the UK government to set up an ‘automation commission’.

Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey said in a statement that automation “presents huge challenges but could be a benefit to society if handled well”.

McCluskey argued: “Automation could be a good thing for industry and society, if handled in the right way – which means not seeing it as just another opportunity to cut jobs and costs and make a fatter profit.

“It should instead be an opportunity for a shorter working week with no loss in pay, or the gateway to a nationwide programme of re-skilling and up-skilling existing workers, while also creating new training and apprenticeship schemes.

“That won’t happen if a laissez-faire free-market approach is allowed to dominate.

“A world where our parents’ hopes for a ‘job for life’, has been replaced with the hope for work for the next few years, is one that is insecure and uncertain.

“That is why Unite is calling for the government to take the lead in setting up a Future of Automation Commission, involving unions, employers, researchers and academics to find workable solutions to automation, opportunity and threat as it simultaneously is.”

The post and parcel sector is an area of the economy which is already feeling the effects of automation. Robots are fast becoming commonplace in warehouses and fulfilment centres and we are also seeing driverless delivery vehicles and drones making their appearance on our streets and skylines (albeit in “test” mode at the moment). The man-less supply chain is a definite end point in the workplace of the future.  
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