Automation. Are we ready and willing? Or not?

Automation. Are we ready and willing? Or not?


There’s no getting away from the fact that automation is going to have a major impact on our economy. Particularly when it comes to the employment landscape. No doubt that’s why a two-year commission organised by the Changing Work Centre (a joint research initiative from Community and the Fabian Society), was launched recently by Yvette Cooper MP.

Its aim is to identify the immediate actions that government, employers and trade unions need to take to support workers as technology impacts on jobs during the next 10 years. It hopes to address: how to ensure technology change leads to good jobs not bad ones; how to support workers to adapt and re-skill; and how government, employers and trade unions can work positively together on this agenda.

To tie in with its launch, the commission also published findings from an online survey of 1,092 workers in Great Britain it conducted. On the plus side, 73% of those surveyed were confident they can adapt to technological change and update their skill if automation affects their job. 53% were optimistic that technology change will be good for their working lives. And whilst ‘only’ 37% of workers were worried their job will change for the worse and 23% were worried that their current job may no longer be needed… that still equates to 11 million workers and 7 million workers respectively. Which is a lot of people.

And what support do people feel they’re getting in light of the anticipated changes? Only 9% believed that the UK government is taking steps to prepare them for new workplace technologies. Whilst 16% of employees with a trade union in their workplace think unions are providing support. However, 27% of employees think their employer is providing support.

Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee said, “The digital revolution means technology and jobs are changing faster than ever… It is vital that action is taken now to ensure changing technology doesn’t widen inequality and to make sure all workers feel the benefits.

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community said, These figures should serve as a wake-up call for all trade unions. The vast majority of workers in unionised workplaces do not believe we are supporting them to cope with technological change.

“Automation cannot simply be opposed, rather it should be made to work in the interests of working people. Our members are already dealing with the consequences of automation being managed badly. Government and business need to step up too, but trade unions have a central role to play.”

We also asked Dominic Harvey, Director at CWJobs to comment. He said, “The fear of losing jobs to automation is clearly of growing concern. It is the responsibility of employers in Tech and IT to ensure they upskill staff in order to evolve their capability and keep up with developing technologies. Ideally, the Government would offer incentives for companies to train existing staff to help the UK IT and tech sector keep pace with the rest of the world. However, this is unlikely to happen in the short-term, so the onus will remain on employers to provide this training themselves. Expect to see companies working harder than ever before to support their workforce and create a strong company culture that will encourage staff, improve their skillsets and job versatility, and ultimately, boost workers’ morale.”

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

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