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TUC launches AI taskforce in urgent call to protect workers’ rights

Written by Wed 6 Sep 2023

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has launched a new artificial intelligence taskforce to safeguard workers’ rights and draft new legal protections for fair AI regulation at work.

The TUC made an urgent call for new legislation after workers and employers cried out for certainty over how AI should be used in the workplace.

“Without proper regulation of AI, our labour market risks turning into a wild west. We all have a shared interest in getting this right,” said Kate Bell, Assistant General Secretary at the TUC.

The taskforce will bring together technologists, lawyers, academics, and politicians, with the aim of publishing an AI Employment Bill in early 2024. It will lobby to have the bill incorporated into UK law.

“UK employment law is way behind the curve, leaving many workers vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination,” added Bell.

TUC stressed that AI safety isn’t just a challenge for the future. The taskforce said that AI is already making ‘high-risk, life changing’ decisions about workers’ lives, including line-managing, hiring and firing staff.

“They need the help from researchers, policy makers and civil society to build the capacity to get this right for society,” said Gina Neff, Executive Director of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy at the University of Cambridge.

To address common concerns, the UK will host a global AI summit in November. The taskforce stressed the importance of including workers’ groups and the voluntary sector in this event, alongside business groups and employers.

Who will form the TUC AI taskforce?

The TUC will lead the taskforce, with support from a special advisory committee. Members include representatives from Tech UK, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the University of Oxford, the British Computer Society, among others.

Members of Parliament David Davis, Darren Jones, Mick Whitley, and Chris Stephens will also sit on the committee.

“Developing the new AI legal framework for workers and employers requires input from experts of all kinds,” said Robin Allen KC and Dee Masters from the AI Law Consultancy who will draft the taskforce’s AI Employment Bill.

Kate Bell and Gina Neff will serve as co-chairs.

Why is the taskforce needed?

Experts warned that the UK is ‘way behind the curve’ on the regulation of AI, with UK employment law failing to keep pace with the development of new technologies.

“We urgently need new employment legislation, so workers and employers know where they stand,” said Bell.

The TUC said the UK risks becoming an ‘international outlier’ on AI regulation, as the EU and USA have already drafted specific legislation to regulate AI at work.

While the UK’s pro-innovation White Paper was praised by the Competition and Markets Authority and British Computer Society, some experts say ministers have yet to put in place the necessary ‘guardrails’ to protect workers’ rights.

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Written by Wed 6 Sep 2023

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