The emergence of Artificial Intelligence in Industrial and IT sector has considerably reduced the job opportunities for employees. We must have heard through newspapers or from friends that machines with artificial Intelligence can perform the job of employees/workmen and make way for the employer to fire them. I believe this article will give an instance of AI deployment, explore its consequences and the precautions that can be taken by employees.
The Impact of AI
Generally, an AI processor can manage and perform many of the existing tasks taking away employee jobs. Employers have already started implementing this in various departments and reaping profit. Since IT industry is the center of AI development, it is being implemented rapidly. As it benefits the employer in terms of profit and turn over, huge funds are allocated towards this emerging technology and recruiting more employees having AI skillset. The AI implementation leads to layoff of older employees. The companies prefer to take up freshers at lower salary, not train existing employees in new technology.
Now, let us look at one specific function where AI is actively employed in IT companies.
Usually in IT companies, if an employee gets released from project, he/she will be in bench where he can request HR (Human Resource Manager) for a project that matches his/her skill set. He will be in bench reporting to the HR until he finds a project matching his skillset. Once he crosses ‘n’ days (n – limited number of days specified by the company), HR will force them to take up one of the available projects without regard to employee’s skillset and other constraints (like location, shift etc.). I have also seen HR threatening less experienced employees emotionally. Employee ends up accepting the given project of unfamiliar technology and struggles a lot to learn unknown technologies/tool by spending extended hours in office. The company does not provide the time for learning to new technology before taking up the project. Some other employees find project using their personal network and start working there.
Generally, bench time gives opportunity/time to employees to reevaluate their skill sets and update/refresh themselves with the latest features/changes in their technology. They also get time to learn soft skills (communication skills). There are a few employees who don’t utilize the time and do nothing productively; but this ratio is very small.
If you find it hard to go through this process for getting a suitable project by interacting with HR, the new procedure which is waiting to be implemented is even more alarming.
AI based Project Allocation
They have developed a AI processor through which employees will be allocated projects without contacting HR. Based on the employee’s skillset, the AI processor will show a few projects; employee had to choose one of them. The problem here is: location constraint is by-passed. AI processor will randomly show a few projects across India. Accepting a project in different location may not be feasible for everyone; we may be living with a family in Chennai; we may be taking care of elderly parents. There will be many more valid reasons for not being ready to accept those projects. By searching more employee will be able to find a project matching their skill sets in the location of their preference. Though most of the HRs’ are rude and harsh, somehow we can make them understand and struggle to find a project in preferred location.
The chances of getting a preferred project by explaining the personal issues to the HR is high; whereas with the AI processor it is highly impossible. It is a mechanical/impersonal thing which wont listen, but push back all queries for which answer is not programmed into it.
If the employee rejects a project due to unsuitable location, the AI processor will record such project rejections as “Employee rejected projects” and in turn this might give a pretext for the employer to carry out termination quoting this as reason.
Further, AI processor will create a job loss for HRs since it is designed to carry out their job. Currently, HRs have been sending employees out, but they will also be sent out in future. As usual, employer will be reaping the benefits in terms of profit. The bitter truth is that, one way AI is being used to send employees out; secondly, using the same AI, count of HR is reduced. And all these will be carried out very soon.
For example, Many TCS employees might aware of the name “CARA” – Artificial bot name which is designed to handle employees requests towards HR, Currently this bot is automatically taking care of minor activities of Hr. Same will soon be implemented by Infosys, Wipro and other IT companies without considering the welfare of their employees and just to raise profits.
Don’t we need new technology?
We, as professionals and workers, support all scientific inventions and developments; we should embrace new scientific developments for the welfare of the human race. But, we should ensure that it aids in uplifting the well-being of the society as a whole. The current situation is totally reverse. All scientific inventions are being used only for the welfare of the minority, who are rich and control the productive resources – namely capitalists.
It’s not a big deal for an employee to think “Money is Primary; Money can bring many things” in this world. But, the same is transformed as “Everything is a Trade/Business” by the employers and millionaires. Knowing well that our work in AI will lead to job loss to lakhs of people, we develop the technology. But we are not in a position to regulate/align the usage of technology for maximising human well being. AI technology developed by us is used to send our fellow employees out of the company by employers. We have no say in the use our creations are put into and the consequences they create.
How to face this problem? What is the remedy?
We have no power or authority in today’s system to ask the employers to stop or regulate the usage of AI for the benefit of employees and society at large. As an individual IT professional it is difficult to question absurd things in their own company. Even if we ask, we will not get appropriate answer or remediate plan for this as they target only profits. In case, if employees started questioning employers, they will be targeted and unlawfully/unethically treated.
But we, employees can unite and collectively take our place in decision making process. Only, the company having union working for the welfare of employees without any discrimination and where the employees themselves joins the union will have high productivity and turn over. Employees rights will be protected only here. Even if there is an issue, solution will be attained without compromising employee welfare.
So, friends let’s unite and join the union through which we can take up any issue and question the employer. Through this we can stop the companies using AI processor to lay-off employees. The attitude of joining the union after job loss thinking that we get the job back is as selfish as companies throwing out the employees as waste paper.
Hence join NDLF to protect and claim your rights!!
– A Senior Software Employee
Translated from Tamil