Jeremy Corbyn: Let workers control robots

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    A robot holds a newspaper during a demonstration during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 22, 2016.Image copyright AFP

    Robots in the workplace should be owned and controlled by workers rather than bosses, Jeremy Corbyn will suggest.

    The Labour leader, who has previously warned of the risk to jobs of automation, will say new technology has led to “a more rapacious and exploitative form of capitalism”.

    He will also suggest “gig economy” firms like Uber could be replaced by co-operatives.

    Drivers would collectively agree their own pay and conditions, he will say.

    Earlier this year, a study by accountancy firm PwC said robotics and artificial intelligence could affect almost a third of UK jobs by the 2030s, with “more manual, routine jobs” which “can effectively be programmed” the most at risk.

    The report also said automation could create more wealth and additional jobs elsewhere in the economy.

    Speaking to the Co-operative Party Conference in London on Saturday, Mr Corbyn will return to his warning made in Labour’s conference about the possible impact on workers.

    Labour does not “have all the answers” but is “thinking radically” he will say, pointing to the party’s Alternative Models of Ownership report, launched last month.

    To prevent “the rise of the robots” only benefitting “a powerful and wealthy few”, the report suggests “putting the ownership and control of the robots in the hands of those who work with them,” he will say.

    “The technology of the digital age should empower us both as workers and consumers, allowing us to co-operate on a scale in a way that wasn’t possible in the past,” he will add.

    “And yet too often it has given rein to a more rapacious and exploitative form of capitalism.”

    Mr Corbyn will criticise the wages and conditions offered by the likes of cab-hailing app Uber and food delivery service Deliveroo.

    Such companies say their drivers and riders are self-employed and therefore can work when they want – and in return for that flexibility they do not get the same benefits as full-time staff.

    Mr Corbyn will say: “Imagine an Uber run co-operatively by their drivers, collectively controlling their futures, agreeing their own pay and conditions, with profits shared or re-invested.

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    “The biggest obstacle to this is not technological, but a rigged economic system that favours wealth extractors not wealth creators.”

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