Motion no: 3


Automation is not a new challenge to the Trade Union movement, however, the pace of change posed by new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) & digitalisation is staggering with some estimates putting jobs effected as high as 35% in the UK and 47% in the US. This has radical and long reaching consequences for the world of work, TU members and communities.

Northern Ireland is particularly at risk from the adverse effects of new technologies, such as automation, due to its reliance on service sector jobs, those sectors deemed to be most affected by replacement and displacement of existing jobs. Of course, its effects will be felt across all sectors with transport, retail and finance being the at the cutting edge of change at present, however, all occupations and sectors will be impacted.

We should also recognise that new technologies also present us with opportunities to organise and gain real benefits for workers. Key to this will be our ability to collectively organise and bargain, without changes to legislation and a campaign of renewal in the TU’s, workers voice in the new technological transition will be lost, in the parlance of the time collective bargaining is key to any just transition. AI and respective technologies have the capacity to make workers lives better, we must ensure that large swathes of citizens are not left behind.

In a world where technology creates few jobs but enormous wealth (the period of AI has become one of labour replacement), the challenge is a distributional one. Regardless of what the future of technology holds, it is up to us in the trade union movement to shape its economic and societal impact. It is for our movement to make technology enabling for workers and their families and for this technological advance not to be exploited in the interests of employers.

We must demand a fair share in the form of higher wages, decent jobs, less time at work and most importantly that those most effected by technological change should be the ones that benefit most from it.

Conference calls on NIC-ICTU:

  • i) To explore and map out potential areas of risk posed by new technologies across sectors.
  1. ii) This should also include new jobs, activities and areas of production which would enable the creation of decent job growth and job options new technologies may enable. This should be carried out on an NI and all island basis, especially in the context of Brexit.
  • Lobbying for new legislation to protect workers faced with technological displacement/replacement.
  • To lobby the NI Assembly to form an institutional framework to assist workers displaced by digitalisation/automation which would give intensive support and training to workers. To seek best practice and models in an international context e.g. Swedish “Job Security Councils”, which include employers and unions. This model sees over 90% of those affected by technological displacement return to employment within 12 months. NIC-ICTU could progress via Better Work Better Lives Campaign.
  • Increased rights to Collectively Bargain & Organise as any just transition posed by automation is meaningless without workers voice within that process. Collective bargaining will be central to bargaining for job security and new technology agreements.
  • 4 day working week with no loss of pay, along with worker friendly flexible working arrangements via any productivity gains which new technologies engender.

Education and training in skills needed for the future, including quality apprenticeship schemes