By Ivana Saula
IAM Canadian Research Director
“People don’t realize how automated [our workplace is]”
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a new buzz word everyone has heard of; it has piqued our collective imaginations on what our world might look like with the availability of new technologies. It seems every day there’s a new breakthrough powered by artificial intelligence, and the concern everyone has relates to the implications for workers and their workplaces.
The IAMAW is taking proactive steps to study the issue by conducting a study of AI fueled automation across workplaces where our members work. The study began with a cross-country member survey to identify industries undergoing major technological change.
The second part of the study kicked off on October 3, 2019 at Local Lodge 2323 with members from the airline industry. Local 2323 hosted a focus group for the afternoon where members discussed what they’re seeing firsthand in their jobs. There was consensus that, “on a surface level people welcome [automation], but there is no deeper understanding.” Perhaps the most telling sentiment is that workplaces are so heavily automated that it’s resulted in a “new normal.” Yet, workers are not fully cognizant of technological changes, because as one participant indicated, “the changes creep in slowly.” Overall, it was an informative and enlightening discussion that will provide invaluable input into the Canadian IAMAW report slated to be released in early 2020.
The objective of the study is to better understand the level of automation in our member’s workplaces, and ways in which to advocate and protect member’s jobs at the bargaining table and through political means. What was heard loud and clear is that members want the IAMAW to take a proactive and preventative approach to dealing with what has been termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The focus group was the first of nine scheduled dates across Canada discussing automation in workplaces. The next set of focus groups will take place in Montreal, Quebec, followed by locals in Vancouver, North Bay, and Toronto.
Thank you to Local Lodge 2323 for organizing the event and for a lively and informative discussion. Thanks also goes out to all those Locals and Districts who have taken the time to host focus groups, and all those members who are taking the time to participate. Your input makes our advocacy efforts possible and that much more effective!