Birkenhead MP warns of potential impact of AI on jobs and worker rights in AI-generated speech

Mick Whitley MP has delivered an AI-generated speech warning that advances in Artificial Intelligence risk causing “irreparable loss of jobs, economic inequality and a violation of workers’ basic rights”.

Leading a debate in Westminster Hall yesterday (Wednesday 26 April), the Member of Parliament for Birkenhead said that he had chosen to use the popular AI chatbot Chat GPT to produce his opening remarks to illustrate the growing sophistication and availability of AI-powered technologies.

The debate followed the publication of the government’s AI White Paper on 29 March, which proposes a ‘light touch’ and ‘pro-innovation’ approach to the regulation of AI.

The White Paper has been criticised by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) as “dismal” and for failing “to ensure that employment law keeps pace with the AI revolution”.

Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell similarly criticised the government’s strategy for “reinforcing gaps in our existing regulatory system and making the system hugely complex for businesses and citizens to navigate.”

Mick Whitley said that we should embrace the potential of AI to change our lives for the better – such as in improved diagnosis and treatment of disease. But he called for greater protections for workers whose jobs are at risk by developments in the field of AI.

Research commissioned by the government in 2021 found that as many as 7% of all UK jobs were at high-risk of being automated in the next five years. Around 30% of UK jobs could be automated within twenty years.

The Birkenhead MP called on the government to guarantee workers’ right to “a basic level of economic security and dignity at work” by investing in lifelong learning and skills in those fields of the economy that will experience job growth as a result of the revolution in AI. He also said that Ministers should consider the benefits of introducing a Universal Basic Income in a labour market that will increasingly be characterised by job scarcity.

Mick Whitley, who served as a trade union official before his election to Parliament in 2019, has also said that more needs to be done to protect workers who are already working alongside AI.

In 2020, an AI working group set up by the TUC surveyed two thousand workers in producing a report into the worker experience of AI. It found that many workers experience a lack of transparency of how AI is being used in the workplace and difficulties challenging automated decisions made by technology.

Subsequent recommendations included introducing a statutory duty for employers to consult with employees and their representatives before introducing AI and associated technologies into the workplace, establishing a right to a human review of decisions made by technology, and a right for workers’ to “switch off”. 82% of people surveyed in 2022 expressed support for a statutory duty to consult.

Mick Whitley has said that he intends to introduce legislation proposing a “rights-based and people-focused” approach to the regulation of the AI sector on 17 May.


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