The use of algorithmic management systems has dramatically accelerated across different industries in recent years, offering employers new ways to prioritize productivity at the expense of workers’ well-being, privacy and wages.
Recognizing the urgent need to address these problems, UNI Global Union has released a new report, Algorithmic Management: Opportunities for Collective Action, which provides valuable guidance on how unions can challenge these systems using established legal frameworks and existing bargaining mechanisms. The report also offers concrete recommendations for future collective bargaining.
Algorithmic management systems depend upon extensive monitoring and surveillance, providing real-time performance feedback to workers and managers. However, these systems often lead to the enforcement of unrealistic productivity targets, placing immense pressure on employees and compromising their physical and mental health.
In response, unions worldwide are taking a stand against these abuses, demanding safer working conditions and advocating for fair distribution of the productivity benefits derived from these technologies.
Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, emphasized the significance of unions’ efforts in this critical moment:
“While algorithmic management poses serious new challenges, the traditional tools for worker representation are still central to taking on these new risks. Unions have a long history of bargaining over the use of technology, and the principles which worked years ago remain key today. In addition to bargaining rights, unions are turning to well-established protections for breaks and safety along with new laws covering data protection and privacy. This guide is intended to pull together some best examples of these efforts so that we can learn from one another and achieve dignity at work for all.”
Through a global review, UNI identified four key tools to address the excesses of algorithmic management:
The report also contains a guide to bargaining on the impacts of algorithmic management on workers. Some of these recommendations include the right to notice before technology is introduced; a period to assess the risks and other impacts of the technology, including possible discrimination; the right to transparency and information; establishment of independent worker committees to address health and safety concerns; and a requirement for human oversight in decision-making processes.
UNI is continuing its research into unions’ responses to this technology, and we are encouraging member unions to contribute to this ongoing project by sharing new collective bargaining agreements, proposals and any information regarding algorithmic management initiatives at https://uniglobalunion.org/contact.