The Maritime Union has called for a “productivity dividend” from employers to spread the wealth created by new technology in the workplace.
Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Trevor Hanson says that the growing use of automated technology in the workplace could have harmful effects in a recession unless the profits were shared.
He says that unless the productivity gains of new technologies are distributed throughout society, especially to displaced workers, it would result in social catastrophe.
“The Union is all for new technology, but only if its introduction did not lead to unemployment, casualization and deskilling of large numbers of people.”
He says a number of technological advances had been seen in recent times, including self-service in supermarkets and airports, processing systems in meat and agriculture, as well as the use of outsourcing of callcentre and similar work overseas.
Mr Hanson says that a productivity dividend could pay for reduced working hours, higher wages, retraining, better social services, and would stimulate economic demand.
“The path we are on at the moment will lead to an impoverished class of people in the midst of plenty.”
Mr Hanson says that we live in a high tech society that still had primitive attitudes towards the value of human beings.
He says that social progress was lagging behind technological progress.
“In the short to medium term, it is no good telling workers put out of work that in the long run it will make things better. There needs to be a system where the disruption of new technologies can be minimized for working people, the majority of the population, and work for them.”
“We want to see social progress alongside technological progress, and that means a much greater distribution of the wealth created by new technologies.”
Mr Hanson says that deregulated free market globalization had the potential to wreck societies like New Zealand.
“There is a naive view that if we deregulate everything and leave it to the free market that we will automatically get a balanced and secure society, but this is clearly not the case.”