Sunday, March 03, 2019

uCVS19 Conference speech 10. "Alexa did you takes our jobs The rising threat of Automation and computerisation in the Housing Sector"

This was my speech to UNISON Community Conference yesterday on Motion 10.

"John Gray, speaking on behalf of the Service Group Executive in favour of motion 10 as amended.


This is all disturbing and challenging but negative changes in employment is nothing new. My first experience of significant industrial action took place 20 years ago this July when I was I was a housing officer working for a London council and was elected chair of a strike committee, we took all out strike for a month against setting up of a repairs call centre and closure of 12 local housing offices with the threat of compulsory redundancies.

It is also not just automation that threatens our jobs but the associated so called “gig or uber economy” employment practices. The rise of bogus self-employment, insecure contracts, no sickness pay, no decent holiday nor pension provision.

Undoubtedly there are threats from automatisation that this motion seeks to begin to address but also there are opportunities to organise. Remember the words of the famous song “Jerusalem” by William Blake? We have new versions of “dark satanic mills” in this 21st century  industrial age, even though there might appear to be shiny computer centres, and UNISON has to be there for workers - fighting, campaigning, persuading, influencing, defending workers by all means possible.

Unison needs to raise its game as well, recently a community member rang our free phone number unisondirect to advise us that she had left her job with a major charity and was now working “freelance” for two charities. As soon as she mentioned “freelance” she was told that she was no longer eligible to be a member! Of course, this is nonsense and Gavin our national officer was horrified when I told him and has taken up with issue with unisondirect, but this shows how we must change our union to reflect the reality of workers, here and now.

This member doesn’t just want traditional representation if things goes wrong she want help with chasing invoices, claiming tax back, basic pension advice and income protection if she is sick.

Finally, conference, 20 years ago we won that dispute against automatisation and managed to save a local housing office service and no one was forced out of a job.

What we must do now is to ensure that our union can adapt to our ever changing world and win future fights for all our members. Conference, please support this motion.

This motion was from the great nation of Cymru/Wales written by my good comrade Mark Jones. Hat tip picture to Mitsy. The motion was passed unanimously.


Anonymous said...

Try calling Newham council and you have to deal with automated system. The humans are gone. If you needs, don't meed any category, then you are chucked out of the automated system. Even if you managed to get through to someone, it is always a voicemail box and you never get a call back. The Newham web site, has categories for reporting common issues, but if you request falls outside, they don't have a miscellaneous option.

John Gray said...

agreed not good enough. We are investing in new ICT and website which will make a much needed difference