Unions warn of the AI ‘tidal wave’ coming towards workers

"We can't stop the tide, but we can build a boat.”

Unions have made urgent warnings about the threat of artificial intelligence to UK workers during a motion demanding better AI regulation from the Government.

The motion called for increased pressure on ministers to address the lack of AI state regulation and for the union movement to lobby political parties to ensure employers introduce safeguarding policies in the workplace.

Speakers from unions representing artists, musicians, actors, journalists, shop workers and more came up to speak about the threats of AI to their industry.

A spokesperson for the NUJ journalist union described AI as a “tidal wave coming towards us, that will affect everyone in this room”.

“Those that are driving it have exceptional deep pockets”, Steven Bird of the NUJ said. “Whilst the dangers are already being articulated even by the developers themselves. The race is on, they want to make as much money out of it as possible.”

The CWU communications union called for urgent moves to make sure humans are an integral part of the changes coming and for funding to support reskilling and retraining of workers. While one speaker highlighted that 75% of customer service roles are predicted to be lost due to AI.

Dwight Miller from Community union said: “We can’t stop the tide but we can build a boat.”

“AI is already transforming the world of work and the way businesses are organised.

“Our job is to make this change work for our members and working people. Our movement needs to be at the forefront of ensuring regulations are written that work for us.”

AI is here to stay, said Robert Scott of the Musicians Union, but that there was “virtually no legislation around it”.

The motion was overwhelmingly supported by Congress delegates.  

The TUC recently launched an AI taskforce to safeguard workers’ rights, with the aim to introduce new legal protections for employers and workers.

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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