Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’ Grady today called for working weeks to be cut to four days as technological advances increase efficiency.
Rather than a threat to their jobs, technology should be a way to let British workers have a better work life balance and spend more time with their families, the TUC boss believes.
Addressing the TUC congress this week O’Grady warned that for too long now the multinationals that have benefitted the most from new technology have got away with using advances to create more inequality rather than lifting people’s quality of life.
Research by the TUC, which represents most UK trade unions, has found that most workers are pessimistic about the effect of technological progress on their prospects.
Oxford University research revealed this year that over 60,000 jobs in Britain have already been taken over by robots. Researchers projected that up to 15 million jobs could be replaced by robots in the next 20 years if current trends continue.
Shareholders and bosses “must not be allowed to hoover up all the gains from new tech”, the TUC general secretary is set to warn.
“In the 19th century, unions campaigned for an eight-hour day. In the 20th century, we won the right to a two-day weekend and paid holidays.
“So, for the 21st century, let’s lift our ambition again. I believe that in this century we can win a four-day working week, with decent pay for everyone.
“It’s time to share the wealth from new technology. Not allow those at the top to grab it for themselves. We need strong unions with the right to go into every workplace – starting with Amazon’s warehouses here in the UK.”
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has just become the richest man in the world while 89 per cent of Amazon workers told a recent survey they feel exploited.
O’Grady will say: “Jeff Bezos owns Amazon – now a trillion dollar company. He’s racking up the billions while his workers are collapsing on the job exhausted.
“We need strong unions with the right to go into every workplace, starting with Amazon’s warehouses here in the UK.”
The TUC’s poll of workers found pay, stress and long hours were workers’ biggest worries, and many fear tech advances such as robotics will create more unemployment and job insecurity.
But the TUC is calling for regulation and corporate responsibility to ensure that the vast wealth generated by new technological efficiencies means that people are able to work less hours for more money.
Inequality has been growing since the financial crash of 2008, with a record level of inequality rivalling that of 1913, the year before Europe plunged into the Great War.
Yesterday at the launch of the TUC conference Frances O’Grady accused Theresa May of holding the country to ransom with her inability to negotiate a Brexit that works for her own party, let alone the EU, or most importantly the UK.
She said that her influential union would back a People’s Vote for a final say on Theresa May’s Brexit deal unless the Prime Minister changes tack for a softer Brexit that will ensure jobs aren’t lost on a massive scale.
“We’ve accepted the result but we’ve been very clear that the prime minister should make jobs, rights and no hard border in Ireland her priorities,” O’Grady told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“We think if we stayed in the Single Market and Customs Union, like Norway has stayed in the EEA, then that would be good enough – that would be the best way to protect people’s livelihoods,”
“Theresa May has tied herself up in red lines, made a mess of the negotiations.
“Frankly, I think trust in the government to deliver a good deal is nosediving, so we’ve got to find a sensible way through this.”