Christina Colclough to the Guardian: “We are tipping the balance of power back towards workers”
In a wide-ranging article on the Future World of Work, Director of Digitalisation and Trade Christina Colclough told the Guardian that UNI Global Union and the wider labour movement are trying to tip the balance of power in the new world of work back towards workers. UNI’s efforts to level the playing field in a world where companies increasingly hold the power in the digital economy include a charter of digital rights for workers and have released a groundbreaking “10 Principles for Workers’ Data Rights” and “10 Principles for Ethical AI”.
The dehumanising aspect of the digital economy has been coming to the fore as employers increasingly use algorithms and data to assess, hire and fire employees. Data can be used to discriminate and can be susceptible to bias. As the Guardian article asks, “Is it inevitable that non-traditional or poorer candidates, or those who struggle with new technology, will be excluded from the process?”
UNI Global Union's Top Ten Principles for Workers' Data Rights fills an enormous gap with regards workers' rights in the new world of work. As management increasingly uses data to hire, fire, promote and discipline workers, we demand the right of explanation as to what data they use, how they store this data, where they got it from, and what they will do with it. Without these rights, we will forever be subject to unilateral data-informed managerial decisions.
They provide guidelines for companies’ use of data to decide whether to hire or fire an employee, or whether a certain employee deserves a bonus or a paycut. This data can be biased, unfair and intrusive. UNI is trying to make sure that workers must have the right to access their own data – if data is being collected on them, it is their right to make sure that it is up to date, correct and manageable. For platform workers in particular, it’s incredibly important that they are allowed to take their own data with them if they decide to move companies. Their ratings on one platform may directly affect their ability to get a new job at another, so it’s fundamental that workers are allowed access to their own data.
UNI demands as well that the algorithms used by management are equipped with an “ethical black box” – i.e. that they can be opened and scrutinised for discriminative or unethical datasets.
Colclough comments: “We almost daily read horror stories of how mal-designed algorithms and AI are effecting people’s work life negatively. This must stop and management must be held accountable for the intended as well as unintended consequences of this overreliance on software. Management-by-algorithm simply takes the human out of human resources. UNIs charters offer a constructive way forward for companies to navigate the digital world in a socially-sound way. We are already engaging in serious talks with MNCs to push this forward and we look forward to developing this dialogue”