Industry gets ready to replace EU nationals with automation and leave UK workers with limited jobs and poor wages
A BREXIT OF AUTOMATION could leave UK workers with few job prospects and insecure wages as US companies plan to swoop in warehouses, shipping bays and other areas of light industry and services.
Their fears follow comments by leaders of robotic firms who say that the vote to leave the EU and the mass migration of EU nationals from the UK would create “a favourable market” for them to operate.
Outrage stems from the claims by the leave campaign which used inflammatory language to suggest EU migrants were to blame for joblessness and low wages and their departure would be “British jobs for British workers.”
However, the signal from business and the lack of a national conversation about a citizens income to counter the effects of automation has led to unions such as Unite Scotland and thinktanks like Common Weal warning of a “real threat” to workers jobs, wages and housing.
“We all need to share in the benefits of automation – and that should mean looking at things like cutting working hours without loss of pay, and protecting jobs through retraining, reskilling and redeployment.” Pat Rafferty
Ben Wray, head of policy at the socio-economic policy think tank Common Weal, said to CommonSpace: “This is yet more evidence that the anti-immigration rhetoric of the Leave campaign is now being exposed as totally hollow and superficial. If reduced immigration leads to increased automation, it won’t just be the jobs of immigrants that are replaced by robots – it will be a significant chunk of the UK-born population too. The Bank of England thinks it could be as much as 15 million UK jobs that could be under threat from automation.
“The lesson is that who controls the economy and in who’s interest it works for is many times more significant to jobs, wages and housing than the size of immigration into the UK. The tragedy of Brexit is that the legitimate concerns people have about declining living standards in the UK are going to be made many times worse by handing more power over to the British capitalist elite, who would happily replace your job with a robot if it means their profit margins will rise.”
A third of workers in UK industries such as retail, health, education, construction, forestry, insurance and shipping are from EU member states and have not yet been guarentteed their rights by the UK Government. The government has come under extreme pressure for what some have called its holding of EU nationals “as hostages” during the Brexit negotiations. There currently are 180,000 EU nationals residing in Scotland.
“This is yet more evidence that the anti-immigration rhetoric of the Leave campaign is now being exposed as totally hollow and superficial.” Ben Wray
In addition to this, the jobs which EU nationals may leave would not go to UK nationals which campaigners stated exposed the lie before and during the EU referendum last year that a lack of migration automatically benefited workers in the UK. There is currently not plan by any of the major parties to bring forward a citizens income which some analysts have suggested would ease the effects of automation and rejuvenate the economy for working people. A UK government spokesperson for the department of business, innovation and skills said that any technological investment is “welcome” and that “British workers shall see benefits.”
The LocusBot made by Locus Robotics, a shoulder-high robot with a touch-screen as its head, has sensor technology allowing it to pick and find the most efficient route to an item before a human picker loads can load it onto the machine’s carrying tray. Costing $35,000, a robot is capable of boosting the number of items picked by a worker by 200 per cent to 500 per cent.
Bruce Welty, the founder of Wilmington, Massachusetts-based Locus Robotics, added: “Brexit is going to result in fewer being involved in this kind of work, it will make it a more attractive market for us.”
“The Bank of England thinks it could be as much as 15 million UK jobs that could be under threat from automation.” Ben Wray
Speaking to CommonSpace on the topics of automation and Brexit, Unite Scotland’s secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Unite believes that society should be using new technology not to replace workers, but to make life better for workers.
“We all need to share in the benefits of automation – and that should mean looking at things like cutting working hours without loss of pay, and protecting jobs through retraining, reskilling and redeployment.
“If we don’t, then we’ll just worsen Scotland’s existing jobs crisis – and everyone will suffer as a result.”
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