Rowley: Labour Faces Rise of AI

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By Chantalé Fletcher

THE labour movement in Trinidad and Tobago is facing major challenges.

“The world of work is not only being re-calibrated but re-invented with a surge of corporate investment by major big tech companies, into generative AI (artificial intelligence).”

This according to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in his Labour Day message for 2024.

Dr Rowley said many industries across the globe are either being restructured radically or closed permanently, as workers are facing competition from technological marvels.

He said, “These emerging developments will have tremendous socio-economic implications for our own workplace.We have seen the psycho-social impact AI has had on the jobs and lives of factory workers. 

“The impact is being revealed gradually among ‘knowledge workers’ — accountants, lawyers, engineers, architects, bankers, teachers, etc., whose jobs are not just being reformatted, but some made redundant.”

Dr Rowley said the counterargument is framed that AI is unleashing new levels of productivity and greater efficiencies. Here there is potential for great improvement alongside the possibility of frightening abuse.

He added, “Worldwide, it is being concluded that no area in either the public or private sectors will remain untouched or immune to automation with its speed, deftness and wide reach. It is only a matter of time before the present guardrails in the workplace are changed and generative AI, with its enormous capacity for data, pattern recognition, and automation capabilities, forces a new mix and style of work.

“This will be a challenge for everyone –the employer, the employee, the labour movement, the government, indeed the entire society.”

Dr Rowley said, “One prediction is that it will be just another fork in the road, and generative AI should be understood as a complement to human ingenuity, from which our society will benefit, overall. At worst this could easily be cold comfort to the helpless.”

However, he said the real challenge for all stakeholders – management, government, labour, was to confront these and other emerging 21st-century realities with cooperation, respect, wisdom and understanding. 

Dr Rowley gave recognition to the labour movement and complemented its past and present leaders.

He said, “The government stands as a willing partner, recognising that there are no adversaries, just different perspectives all in the mix for the further development of Trinidad and Tobago. 

“In all of these expressions over history, the one thing that remains constant is change. Let us be ready, be open to learning and not be temperamental in our ways.”


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