TUC to warn business leaders that ‘fourth industrial revolution’ requires a revolution in workers’ rights too

Speaking today (Monday) at the CBI annual conference to introduce a session on ‘Ensuring automation works for everyone’, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady will call on business leaders to work with unions on the challenges ahead.

On technological change and the future world of work, Frances will say:

“At a time when working families up and down the country are already worried about what Brexit means for their jobs and livelihoods, a tech revolution could make or break them.

“Quantum computers could make today’s super computers look like a pocket calculator, and we simply don’t know what that means for jobs.

“We do know that opportunities are there. In manufacturing alone, digital technologies could deliver tens of thousands of new jobs and help cut carbon too.

“’Jobs will be lost, jobs will change, new jobs will emerge. Factories could be run by robots and AI, and office jobs could vanish into the cloud. So we have to create a path from the old jobs to the new.

“We need to make sure that tech poor communities aren’t left behind, and that all staff are supported and skilled-up to ride the wave and share in the rewards.

“If government, business and unions work together and make creating good jobs the priority, we can all be winners from the fourth industrial revolution. Workers will have nothing to fear from the tech revolution if there’s a revolution in skills, rights and social protection too.”

Calling on business to work with unions and sign up to three principles, Frances will say:

“For today’s workers, it may look like a rocky road ahead, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We know this is coming, we can prepare. Business, government and trade unions must work together to pave the way and smooth the journey.

“Firstly, in a rapidly changing world of work, every worker should have the right to reskill and upskill throughout their working life, and to receive free training for new work. New jobs need new skills, so we must invest in a personalised training budget for all workers.

“Secondly, workers must get a fair share of the wealth these technologies generate – through wages, pensions, career support, and improvements to public services.

“And thirdly, workers must have a voice in the future shape of the economy – including policy priorities and regulatory safeguards to make sure technology is a force for social good, not workplace tyranny.”

On using the government’s industrial strategy, Frances will say:

“The success of the business secretary’s industrial strategy depends on government, business and unions working together. So I’m asking businesses here today to join us in letting the government know that we both need a seat at the table. A commission on the future of work, which both the TUC and CBI have called for, would be a great start.

“Let’s see it in the white paper the government will publish soon. Let’s work together and map out a path that makes sure Britain is at the forefront of new technology. And let’s do it in a way that gives everyone a fair and secure path to a great working life.”

Editors note

– Frances O’Grady will deliver the introductory speech at the CBI annual conference session on ‘Ensuring automation works for everyone’ at 4.20pm. For more information about the conference, go to: www.cbi.org.uk/events/events/annual-conference/
– The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.6 million working people who make up our 50 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

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