eu’s emerging ai act neglects workers’ rights
The Artificial Intelligence Act, a revolutionary set of rules governing AI-based goods and services, was recently given the support of the European Parliament. Trade unions contend that the legislation falls short in protecting workers who are impacted by AI systems, despite the fact that the Parliament made some headway in addressing labour rights in comparison to the original proposal by the European Commission. European agencies have generally ignored the need to protect workers’ rights despite the transformative effects of AI on numerous sectors of employment, including driver tracking, human-robot collaboration, and medical data management. In order to address the effects of AI on employment, this article examines the concerns voiced by trade unions on the EU’s AI Act and argues for the creation of a separate AI-labor law.
Trade unions contend that the EU Parliament’s stance on the AI Act represents the whole degree of advancement made in terms of employment difficulties, notwithstanding the possibility of a prohibition on emotionally-recognizing AI systems that may have an effect on the employer-employee relationship. Senior researcher at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), Ada Ponce, emphasizes the need for a special directive on labour relations to set boundaries on the use of AI systems in industrial relations, including monitoring, and to offer clarity.
The ETUI’s sister organization, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), concurs that a separate AI-workers directive is necessary. The ETUC considers it a significant loophole that only high-risk AI applications are regulated. According to Article 6 of the EU Parliament’s position, workplace AI applications can only be subject to restrictions if they represent a “significant” danger. The ETUC contends that if AI companies classified their applications as insignificant, workers would be exposed and their rights would be open to exploitation.
While unions voice alarm over the EU’s AI Act’s disregard for employees’ rights, market advancements continue to grow quickly. According to Goldman Sachs, over 40% of administrative and legal activities could soon be automated, even within EU institutions. According to a Boston Consulting Group report, there will be a roughly 30% increase in the usage of AI in the workplace between 2018 and 2023, and about a third of respondents are worried about being replaced by AI systems.
In order to mitigate the dangers for workers, the European Commission has generally promoted “upskilling,” “reskilling,” and “digital skills” as a strategy. Ada Ponce contends that this focus on developing skills ignores the potential damage that defective AI systems can do to the lives of workers. According to her, the strategy needs to be revised to guarantee that workers are sufficiently safeguarded from the unfavourable effects of AI in the workplace.
Trade unions claim that while the EU’s AI Act is a big step towards regulating AI technologies, it does not fully address workers’ rights. To secure employees’ rights and prevent potential harm, a separate AI-labor law must be created due to the legislation’s neglect of employment-related issues. It is critical for legislators to close the gap between technological breakthroughs and the protection of workers’ well-being as the usage of AI in a variety of industries continues to grow quickly.