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TUC publish report on digitisation of public services
The TUC has published a new report on digitisation across the public sector.
The report Opportunities and threats to the public sector from digitisation reviews evidence from the UK and Europe to consider how digitisation could improve work and services in sectors like healthcare and administration. And it addresses challenges and risks such as redundancy and deskilling, calling for training, investment, and new safeguards.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated moves towards digitisation that were already underway, creating opportunities for improved services:
- Digitisation can improve efficiency and enable information sharing, integration, and personalisation of services.
- Governments can meet the expectations of citizens who increasingly expect a 'digital first' approach.
But it also carries significant risks:
- Jobs could be lost when processes become automated.
- Work could become less skilled leaving only monotonous, unfulfilling tasks to workers.
- Estimates suggest in 60 percent of jobs at least a third of tasks can be automated.
- Access to life-long training is vital if workers are to keep pace with technological change.
And there are impacts on union organising:
- Public sector workers have become more reliant on trade unions to protect jobs, incomes, and access to social protections.
- Public service unions have adapted to changing workplace environments using innovative digital methods to organise and mobilise their membership.
The report argues for the importance of strong and active trade unions in the sector to secure the benefits of digitisation for staff and services users, while protecting them from harmful effects.
The TUC recommends that the government should:
- Increase investment in both workforce and out-of-work training to the EU average within the next five years.
- Introduce a right to a mid-life career review, face-to -face guidance on training, and life-long learning accounts for all workers.
- Create a targeted retraining programme aimed at those at risk of redundancy due to industrial change.
- Plan the digitisation of services in partnership with recognised trade unions across the public sector - this could follow the model of Sweden's Job Security Councils.
- Any digitisation implemented across the public sector should be done with due regard to the Public Sector Equalities Duty.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology is expected to play an increasing role as part of digitisation. The principles from the TUC's 2021 AI manifesto should be applied, including:
- New technology, processes, and changes to ways of working should be negotiated with the workforce and their representatives.
- Negotiate for members to have increased in-the-job access to digital skills and development training, with consideration given to workers most likely to miss out on training at work.
- Advocate for greater regulation over the use and exchange of data in the public sector.
The report marks the beginning of more detailed work by the TUC on the digitisation of public services. If you are a trade union organiser with some relevant experiences and ideas to share, please contact Kamaljeet Gill (email: email@example.com).
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