The two year commission organised by the trade union Community and the Fabian Society will 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.
To coincide with the launch, the commission today publishes the findings of an in-depth survey of workers’ views and expectations about technology change at work. The online survey of over 1,000 workers in Great Britain found that:
- Overwhelmingly, workers are positive about their own ability to navigate change: 73 per cent are confident they will be able to change and update their skills if new technology affects their job. After learning about how technological changes will affect the workplace, over half (53 per cent) are optimistic about their future working life and job prospects.
- However, a significant minority are anxious about the impact of automation over the next 10 years: 37 per cent of workers (i.e. 10 million people) are worried their job will change for the worse; and 23 per cent of workers (i.e. 6 million people) are worried that their current job may no longer be needed.
- Few workers think the government, employers or trade unions are taking action to support workers as technologies change: only 9 per cent of workers think that the UK government is taking steps to prepare them for new workplace technologies; only 16 per cent of employees with a trade union in their workplace think that their unions are taking steps to help ensure that new technologies improve their working life; and, only 27 per cent of employees think their employer is taking action to prepare them for changes.
This failure of leadership to prepare workers for changing jobs is why Community and the Fabian Society have established the Commission on Workers and Technology, which will be chaired by Yvette Cooper MP. It will develop solutions to ensure that automation is an opportunity and not a threat to workers. The commission will address: (1) how to ensure technology change leads to good jobs not bad ones; (2) how to support workers to adapt and re-skill; and (3) how government, employers and trade unions can work positively together on this agenda. The commissioners are drawn from organisations including: the TUC, Prospect union, Community, Sage, Google, Nesta and the University of Oxford.
Launching the commission and commenting on the poll findings, Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said:
“The digital revolution means technology and jobs are changing faster than ever.
“This survey of workers found that almost a quarter of workers are worried that their job will no longer be needed.
“And whilst it found that most people are optimistic that they will be able to change and update their skills, they also say they are not getting any help or support to train or adapt from the government, their employer or a trade union.
“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.
“Technology can have great benefits as well as create new challenges. Almost half of those surveyed said they thought their job would improve with new technology, however nearly a quarter were worried that their job would go altogether. It’s vital that action is taken now to make sure technology creates new better jobs and that all workers benefit from new technology. We have to make sure that automation and the digital revolution don’t widen inequality and that everyone gets the help and support they need to get on.
“I am delighted to be chairing the Commission on Workers and Technology and thank Community and the Fabian Society for initiating this vital work. We need to ensure that automation is an opportunity and not a threat for British workers.”
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.
“Our movement has been at the forefront of social change over the past century, but without urgent action we risk being left behind as the jobs of the next century are born. This commission is an ambitious piece of work that will take us out of our comfort zone and we are delighted that Yvette Cooper has agreed to lead this work over the coming months.”
Background on the Commission
- Chaired by Yvette Cooper, and organised by Community and the Fabian Society, the Commission will take a broad approach to new technologies that affect working practices and productivity, focusing on the following areas:
- Creating good jobs – the Commission will examine how to maximise the prospects for more secure, high-quality jobs, looking at the interventions required at workplace, sector and national level.
- Workers and change – the Commission will examine the support and training required to help workers thrive in changing job roles and to make successful transitions to new jobs or sectors.
- Industrial partnership – the Commission will examine how government, trade unions and employers can work positively together both to shape good jobs and to support workers through change. It will ask what unions need to do to support innovation and to ensure that no one is left behind; and what employers who are automating need to do to take their workers with them and give them a strong voice
- The Commission will hold public evidence sessions and visit workplaces to meet workers and managers as they navigate technology change.
- A public call for evidence is also opened today and contributions are invited from trade unions, businesses, academia, think tanks, and other interested parties and stakeholders.
- The Commission will produce a final report, co-authored by the commissioners in early 2020.
- The secretariat of the Commission is the Changing Work Centre – a joint research initiative from Community and the Fabian Society.
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- Contact: Rabyah Khan, media and communications manager at the Fabian Society
0207 227 4906 | 07392060192 | firstname.lastname@example.org
- Community is the modern union for a changing world. With centuries of experience of representing workers in traditional industries, Community now has members in every sector of the economy, across the UK.
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2205 GB adults, of which 1095 are working. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd and 24th July 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
- The Fabian Society is Britain’s oldest political think tank. Founded in 1884, the Society is at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left. The society is alone among think tanks in being a democratically-constituted membership organisation, with over 7,000 members. It is constitutionally affiliated to the Labour party.