UNI’s principles add workers’ rights to the “management by numbers” equation

UNI’s principles add workers’ rights to the “management by numbers” equation

In her most recent column, Investigations correspondent at the Financial Times Sarah O’Connor reports on the dangers of ‘management by algorithm’. UNI’s ground-breaking principles on data rights and ethical AI are prominently featured as an example of labour’s response to the challenges these dangers pose.

O’Connor recognizes that there can be benefits to incorporating data and algorithms into management’s decision making, but notes that companies “should be wary of wading too deep without limits or safeguards.”

That’s exactly what our principles offer.

Workers' Data Rights

UNI’s “Top 10 principles for workers’ data privacy and protection” provides a framework to address companies’ growing use of data to inform decisions such as hiring and firing with few rules protecting workers’ data protection and privacy. One key principle is that workers must have the right to data collected on them, including the right to have data corrected, blocked, or erased. This data should also be portable—a demand especially important for platform workers, who have hundreds-of-hours of equity in their ratings.

Addressing AI’s power to displace workers and disrupt jobs, UNI Global Union’s “Top 10 principles for Ethical Artificial Intelligence” provides concrete demands regarding its transparency and application. It is estimated that over 50 percent of the work currently done by humans can be faster and more efficiently done by automated systems, and workers are already seeing both displacement and benefits of this technology.

“Data collection and artificial intelligence are the next frontier for the labour movement. Just as unions established wage, hour, and safety standards during the Industrial Revolution, it is urgent that we set new benchmarks for the Digital Revolution,” said UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings.

Christina Colclough, Director of Platform and Agency Workers, Digitalisation and Trade at UNI, also weighed in saying, “Big data and artificial intelligence are not challenges of the future, but issues that must be urgently addressed now. We’ve seen that if left solely to corporations, they will push ahead with little regard for the consequences to workers.”

Download UNI_Workers_Data_Protection.pdf