NEWS24 April 2023

Government not protecting workers from AI-based discrimination, says TUC

AI News Public Sector Technology

UK – The government is failing to stop artificial intelligence (AI) technologies “exploiting” workers by not introducing “necessary guardrails”, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has said.

robots lined up typing on computers

AI could lead to greater discrimination at work, the TUC warned, because such technologies are being used to make decisions about how people are managed, recruited and dismissed.

The TUC issued the warning last week, as politicians, tech leaders, regulators and unions met at its AI conference.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Kate Bell, assistant general secretary at the TUC, said: “AI is going to transform the way millions work in this country and is already being used across the economy to line-manage, and hire and fire staff. 

“Without fair rules, this could lead to widespread discrimination and unfair treatment at work. But the government is refusing to put in place the necessary guardrails to stop people from being exploited.”

Bell said UK ministers had issued “vague and flimsy commitments” instead of “clear and enforceable protections”, and had failed to give proper resources to regulators.

The government’s AI white paper, published at the end of March, “spectacularly failed” to keep pace with the “AI revolution”, added Bell.

Polling commissioned by the TUC in December 2021 found that 72% of respondents agreed that ‘without careful regulation, using technology to make decisions about workers could increase unfair treatment’ and that 82% supported a legal requirement to consult staff before introducing monitoring in the workplace. Polling was conducted by BritainThinks (now Thinks Insight & Strategy).

The TUC also said that the government’s new data protection and digital information bill is “watering down important protections” and would leave workers more vulnerable to “unscrupulous employers”.