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UNI GS to World Economic Forum in Davos: Employers must negotiate over AI risks, benefits


UNI GS to World Economic Forum in Davos: Employers must negotiate over AI risks, benefits

UNI General Secretary Christy Hoffman is carrying an urgent message to the World Economic Forum in Davos: With artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly reshaping the world of work, unions are more crucial now than ever. 

The theme of this year’s gathering in the Swiss mountain village is “Rebuilding Trust,” and it will include significant discussion of how artificial intelligence is poised to change the world – including the world of work. The WEF has called AI-generated misinformation the world’s biggest short-term threat.

UNI General Secretary Hoffman said: 

“The spread of misinformation is not AI’s only threat to democracy. If we allow AI’s economic benefits to be hoarded by the few, it will exacerbate the already staggering levels of global economic inequality, which undermines trust in democratic institutions. By strengthening unions and expanding collective bargaining, we can address AI’s economic risks head on. We can ensure that workers have the power to shape the use of technology and participate in its gains. It’s the path our societies must follow to foster an equitable future.”

In a recent essay published by the WEF, Hoffman continues this argument:

“Judging the success of generative AI solely by metrics of productivity and profit misses the mark. Forecasts of adding $7 trillion annually to the global economy or boosting corporate profits by $4.4 trillion should not be hailed as triumphs if they merely amplify existing inequalities, destabilize democracies and degrade job quality.

“We must make sure AI benefits all and ensuring workers’ bargaining power is the way to do it.”

UNI has supported its affiliates in pushing for fair implementation of technology, including generative AI.  

For example, it organized global solidarity during the Writers Guild of America, East and West, successful 148-day strike – the first where AI was a core bargaining issue – and UNI celebrated their win as a victory for all workers. Deutsche Telecom and its works council have just issued a “Manifesto” which describes a joint approach towards assessing AI and its implications, along with protections for key rights.

And most recently, Microsoft signed a collective agreement with the Communications Workers of America covering hundreds of workers at its ZeniMax video game studio that obligates the company to inform the union whenever the implementation of AI or automation “may impact work performed” by union members. If requested, the company will negotiate over the impact on employees. 

In addition to support for collective bargaining over technology like AI, Hoffman will also comment on mandatory human rights due diligence for all companies and ensuring living wages globally.

For journalists interested in further comment from General Secretary Hoffman, reach out here.