Introducing AI: keep workers on side

Artificial intelligence (AI) could provide a boost to workforce productivity, but organisations need to build their employees’ trust in these technologies and upskill staff appropriately if they are to take full advantage of the benefits.
“AI is already being used to complete vital tasks in workplaces across a range of industries, but it could be used to boost productivity for the workforce generally,” said managing director of recruiting firm Hays in Australia and New Zealand Nick Deligiannis.
PwC analysis suggests that AI could contribute USD 15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, with USD 6.6 trillion of this figure coming from increased productivity. These gains are expected to come from the automation of processes, coupled with AI technologies augmenting the existing labour force.
There are already examples of where AI is starting to have this sort of impact. Two examples are shared in the latest Hays Journal, which explores this issue: fund managers are using AI to track media or social media stories about particular companies to glean important information that could impact share prices, while GP are trialling an AI system that conducts an initial triage of patients to determine who requires primary care.
AI drives demand for more highly-skilled professionals
While some basic positions are likely to be taken over by machines, AI is also creating a need for more highly-skilled professionals.
Associate Professor in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Bath Joanna Bryson gives the example of a bank that is using chatbots to deal with basic customer enquiries.
“You would think that would reduce the number of people managing the telephones, but what they found was that customers felt more engaged and ended up contacting the bank more,” she said. “The other interesting problem was that the chatbots were solving all the easy problems.”
Managing director ANZ of Nuance Communications Robert Schwarz agreed: “Virtual assistants allow organisations to provide their customers with fast and accurate self-service, which is often more convenient than available alternatives. This also reduces call centre costs and has the effect of freeing up agents to undertake more value-adding tasks that are more complex in nature.”
“With AI taking over routine or repetitive tasks, employees can focus on the more exciting aspects of their job or even move into other areas of the business,” said Mr Deligiannis. “Upskilling will be essential to ensure people become more highly-capable experts in their field.”
HR must build trust and alleviate fears
While AI will undoubtedly make some jobs easier, it can also increase fears around career security within the workforce.
Yet a 2018 study, Is automation labour displacing? Productivity growth, employment, and the labour share by David Autor and Anna Salomons found that AI has had a positive effect on aggregate employment.
“HR will need to support the implementation of AI and ensure it is used responsibly while alleviating the perceived threat that many workers see it posing to their livelihood,” says Mr Deligiannis. “Part of this will involve talking about the rationale behind it, and explaining how it can help individuals perform their job, and potentially develop their career through learning new skills.”
This is supported by marketing leader for cognitive process transformation at IBM Global Business Services Owen Tebbutt who said: “The more open an organisation can be about why and where it’s using these technologies, the less concerned employees will be. It’s got to be based around this idea of empowerment. It’s not there to replace jobs but to make your job more impactful, enjoyable and productive. HR needs to be very positive about some of the things this technology can do to make people more productive, happy and fulfilled.”
In the longer term, there can be little doubt that AI will play a more significant role in how organisations are set up and run in the coming years. “A human being is only capable of taking in so much, so we are going to need help sorting through that, and that’s the biggest area where AI can help organisations or people,” says Mr Tebbutt. “The choice is quite stark: we can either drown in data or find a way to benefit clients and the workforce.”
According to Hays, the latter is possible so long as employers are open about the introduction of AI and offer training to employees where needed. In this way, AI will ultimately create a more engaged and productive workforce.

Three Fatal Truck Crashes on NSW Roads in Three Days

Transport Workers' Union NSW Secretary Michael Aird has said that three fatal truck crashes on NSW roads over the past three days were a tragic reminder of just how dangerous the road transport industry is and reinforced why we need to lift the pressure on truck drivers.

"In the past three days, three people have trafically lost their lives in truck crashes on NSW roads," Mr Aird said.

"These fatalities are absolutely devastating and our thoughts are first and foremost with the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives.

"We are calling on the authorities to conduct a full and thorough investigation of each incident to ensure we find out exactly what happpened. This should also include Workcover NSW because the roads are the truck drivers' workplace."

Mr Aird said that these fatal crashes were a tragic reminder of just how dangerous the road transport industry is, with around 330 Australians hilled in truck crashes every year.

"While we do not yet know what caused these crashes, we have decades of evidence that shows impossible deadlines, dangerously low rates and unrelenting economic pressure on truck drivers creates a cocktail for disaster," Mr Aird said.

"The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was established in 2012 after decades campaigning by transport workers, their families and communities to stop the carnage on our roads. It has the power to hold transport clients to account for their pressure on truck drivers and it has published a minimum rate for some owner drivers that is due to come into force on April 4. 

This will set an absolute floor on the minimum rate to do the job safely, hold clients accountable for their role in the transport supply chain and pay drivers for all their time at work.

"But we have big retailers, politicians and lobby groups determined to see the Tribunal swept away so that the big end of town can keep lining their pockets at the expense of safety on our roads. TWU truck drivers will visit Canberra next week to reinforce the message that profits should never be put before Australian lives."

Smash on M4 Widening Project Highlights Wild West Nature of Government Construction Sites

Transport Workers Union NSW Secretary Michael Aird has said that safety procedures on Government infrastructure projects must be put under the microscope in the wake of revelations of a smash between a crane working on the M4 widening project and a passing B-Double truck that have only come to light ten days after the incident.

"How does a crane working on a construction site smash into a passing truck driving past on one of Australia's busiest roads, and how come the public doesn't hear about it for ten days?" Mr Aird said.

"Tens of thousands of commuters drive past the M4 construction site each day. Mike Baird must reassure them of their safety by launching a full and thorough public investigation of exactly what happened and what steps he is taking to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"It's a miracle no one was killed in this incident -if there had been a passenger in the B-double they would have become another tragic statistic."

Mr Aird said the public needed reassurance that safety was being taken seriously on State projects.

"This smash took place 10 days ago, but it's only coming to light because of today's media report. The public needs reassurance that similar incidents on State projects are not being swept under the carpet," Mr Aird said.

Mr Aird said that the TWU owner drivers had been raising concerns about safety on Government construction projects for several years, but it had fallen on deaf ears. 

"It's like the Wild West on many Government infrastructure projects, with no enforcement of safety procedures or independent auditing of contractors on site," Mr Aird said.

"We're blue in the face from telling Mike Baird's Government about the problems, but there's been asbolutely no action."

"We need proper, independent auditing of all transport operators on Government sites, to ensure that drivers are properly trained and not pressured by clients. We also need to ensure that billion dollar corporations are paying a safe rate which can allow mom-and-dad owner drivers to safely maintain their vehicles and to put food on the family table."

Fair Work Rules Linfox Workers can spend public holiday families

Transport Workers Union NSW Secretary Michael Aird has welcomed a ruling that allows night shift warehouse workers in Sydney's West to continue spending public holidays at home with their families instead of being forced into work at the whims Linfox management. 

Mr Aird was speaking after the Fair Work Commission determined that Linfox had no right to unilaterally change the way that it treats public holidays for warehouse workers at Linfox Erskine Park because of a custom and practice in the TWU -Linfox enterprise agreement.

"The whims of managers shouldn't determine whether warehouse workers get to celebrate public holidays with their families or are forced to work," Mr Aird said.

"The nature of night shift work means that your family time is already limited. You work at night so you can support your family and pay the bills. This callous and thoughtless decision to further limit family time was a disgrace. We're glad the Commission has backed our members pre-existing right to spend public holidays with their families in this sensible decision."

TWU delegate and Linfox worker James Mitchell said that Linfox management on site came in with all guns blazing and announced a unilateral change that would have forced warehouse workers to start work at 10pm on the night of a public holiday.

"If management had got their way I wouldn't have got to relax with my family on Australia, ANZAC Day or any of the other public holidays. I'd be keeping an eye on my watch instead of the snags on the barbie," Mr Mitchell said.

"It felt like the manager just woke up one day and decided to change our schedules thus totally changing our lives.

"Because nearly everyone in the yard is a TWU member, we were able to call Linfox managers out over this. We had the support to take the issue into the courts and I am glad things will remain as they should be."

Mr Aird said this was the second time in 12 months the TWU has successfully challenged an arbitrary change to workplace practices by Linfox managers.

"TWU Linfox members negotiated hard to secure a custom and practice clause into the national workplace agreement. This means managers cannot make changes on a whim without reaching agreement with the TWU members," Mr Aird said.

"This is the second time we've given Linfox a legal bloody nose. We hope this serves as a wakeup call for Linfox managers -don't try to arbitrarily upend your employees' lives. Negotiate fairly and honestly and don't waste time clogging up the courts."

Tunnel Incident shows need for industry training, investigation into 457 Visas

The Transport Workers' Union has called for industry-wide training for truck drivers following an incident in the M5 tunnel in Sydney today which caused major traffic chaos. 

The TWU also called on Immigration Minister to investigate abuse of the 457 visa system whereby truck drivers are being brought into Australia on 457 visa, in violation of visa rules.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said the incident in the M5 tunnel caused major disruption to an important thoroughfare in Sydney and economic loss to those affected by it. He said industry-wide training should be carried out under the auspices of a national auditing, education and industrial rights.

“This fund would be important in holding companies to account over safety and standards. At the moment it is the rest of the community which is bearing the brunt of the loss of loved ones and the economic cost of truck crashes and chronic delays as we have seen today,” Sheldon said.

The fund would be paid into by all employers along the supply chain in sectors with high rates of fatalities. It would ensure companies are meeting safety obligations and that those at the top of supply chains are being held to account for work carried out for them. The fund would also educate employers on their obligations while training drivers on safety and their rights at work.

The TWU is also concerned at claims that the driver of the truck today was on a 457 visa. Truck driving is not included in the list of categories for 457 skilled visa holders and Federal Immigration Minister must urgently establish if visas are being obtained for truck drivers.

“I call on the Federal Government to investigate claims that the truck was being driven by a 457 visa holder. This is a very serious issue with huge implication for public safety, given the dangerous nature of trucking,” said Sheldon.

Data from the Fair work Ombudsman last year showed one in five migrant workers on 457 visas are not working in the job they are brought in to do or are not being paid the correct salary.

Around 330 people are killed each year nationally in truck-related crashes. This is the reason trucking is Australia’s deadliest profession, with drivers 15 times more likely to die than any other profession.

Conference sets port automation agenda

A conference being held in Sydney today will probe the future of port automation and examine how trade unions should be best involved in the practice.

160 representatives from 11 maritime unions on 10 countries will meet in Sydney today to discuss how set the union agenda on port automation.

The ITF say that dockers have long experiences in adapting to new technologies onsite and that their technological skills make them an essential part of the automation debate.

ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin said workers’ interests were paramount in any automation discussions.

“We are united in the view that automation will not be imposed, it will come through negotiation,” he said.

“We are building the widest possible alliance to ensure workers’ interests are represented, and employers would be well advised to understand that a global network is solidifying and strengthening its resolve to respond decisively to unilaterally imposed automation.”

Crumlin said the unions would come down hard on companies trying to force automation on their workforce without proper process.

“Unions are committed to dialogue with employers which is open and fair. However, the others, the employers who try to use automation as a means to try and destroy unions, impose excessive job cuts and remove conditions of work should know that we will take action against them,” he said.

Ray Familathe, vice president mainland of the US International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and ITF dockers’ section second vice chair said workers played an important role in ports.

“Our goal is to protect permanent employment for all registered dockworkers throughout the world, whether it’s in traditional cargo-handling terminals or fully automated container terminals,” he stated.

One in five died in the transport industry

The Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) chairman, Mr Bill Scales AO, has released the report "Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia, 2004 – 05", which shows that more than one in five (22%) workers to be killed on the job worked in the transport industry.

In October 2003 the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, which was replaced by the ASCC, acknowledged that the National Data Set for Compensation Based Statistics (NDS) did not adequately enumerate deaths in all industries as it is based on workers’ compensation data which relates only to employees.

To address this, a project was established to combine information from the Notified Fatalities Collection (NFC), the National Coronial Information Service (NCIS) and the NDS to better enumerate work-related deaths due to injury. This report is the second in the series as a result of this project.

Key findings of the report include:

•       249 persons died from work-related injuries while working for income. (2.5 deaths per 100 000 employed persons). 20 of these deaths (8 per cent) involved women. The Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry accounted for 27% (67 deaths) of the deaths, followed by the Transport and storage industry with 22% (55 deaths).

•       150 of the 249 fatalities were caused by mobile plant and transport with 58 due to trucks, semi-trailers and lorries and 43 due to cars, station wagons, vans or utilities.

•       The report identified an additional 98 employed persons who died from an injury incurred while travelling to or from work (1.0 death per 100 000), this number is known to be understated. In 65 per cent of cases, the deceased was a driver or passenger in a car or was hit by a car.

•       In addition, the report identified 58 persons who were killed as a bystander to work activity, though this number is also thought to be understated. 11 of these bystanders were children under the age of 18.

It is important to note that the number of work-related deaths identified in this report cannot be compared to those published in the 2003–04 report due to the introduction of a number of improvements to the way work-related injury fatalities are identified. The ASCC is continuing to investigate ways of further enhancing the collection especially in the areas of commuting and bystander deaths which are known to be underreported.

The ASCC has also released the Notified Fatalities Statistical Report July 2007 to December 2007 and Occupational Disease Indicators, April 2008 report.

The Notified Fatalities Statistical Report July 2007 to December 2007 summarises notifications of fatalities that have occurred during the first part of the financial year from 1 July to 31 December 2007. The next in the series is an annual report which will provide a detailed analysis of notified fatalities that have occurred in the whole financial year.

The Notified Fatalities Statistical Report July 2007 to December 2007 shows that 72 notified work-related fatalities were reported to the ASCC by jurisdictional OHS authorities, of these 10 were bystander fatalities.

“It is pleasing to see that this is a slight improvement on the six-month figure reported for the previous financial year (1 July to 31 December 2006), which identified 78 work-related notified fatalities including 4 bystander fatalities,” Mr Scales said.

The Occupational Disease Indicators, April 2008 report provides information about the movement in the incidence of occupational disease. This report is the second in a series of biennial reports, the first of which was published in April 2006.

“The release of these reports serves as a reminder to all of us that workplace safety is a priority and that Commonwealth and state and territory jurisdictions should continue to work together in an effort to implement OHS best practice and obtain the most relevant data on work-related injury fatalities.

“One death in the workplace is one too many," Mr Scales said.

The Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia, 2004 – 05, Notified Fatalities Statistical Report July 2007 to December 2007 and Occupational Disease Indicators, April 2008 report are available for download from the ASCC website at



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