Artificial intelligence and co-determination - the future has begun

BDA AGENDA 10/23 | COMMENT OF THE WEEK | 17. May 2023

Christiane Benner, Second Chairwoman of IG Metall

AI - Artificial Intelligence, two letters are on everyone's lips. The public hello-wake-up experience has been triggered by the remarkable texts that the program ChatGPT-4 has been generating on the basis of a few keywords for a few months now. A visible breakthrough that is immediately accompanied by dystopian horror visions. Will AI take over the reigns of the universe in a few years and degrade us humans to mere command receivers?

As a trade unionist with a practical background, I'll start a few floors down. In day-to-day business, there are already enough questions to be answered - and regulated - around AI. AI, weak or strong, is already being used in all areas of the company, from research and development, logistics and production to marketing, sales and after-sales. In the production area, so-called collaborative robots, cobots, are used. Warehouses are optimized algorithmically, and transport systems are driverless. In personnel selection, algorithmic systems are being used to pre-select applicants. Training and continuing education has moved into the three-dimensional metaverse in some companies, fueled by contact bans in the Corona pandemic.

Technology is advancing in seven-league boots. By contrast, the Works Constitution Act, the main basis for co-determination in the workplace, remains in place. Its core dates back to 1972, a time when computers were as big as a single-family house. Impressively symbolized by Hal 9000 from Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece "2001 - A Space Odyssey". The on-board computer declares its omnipotence at the end of the film to the last surviving spaceship pilot in no uncertain terms: "Dave, there's no point in this conversation anymore - it's going nowhere. Farewell!" Let's get this straight right away: He couldn't deal with seasoned IG Metall store stewards like that!

We don't want it to come to that. That is why IG Metall is calling for a modernization and retreading of the Works Constitution Act. It urgently needs to be renewed in line with the times - also and especially for dealing with AI! Questions such as job security, occupational health and safety, but also professional training or personnel selection will arise in a completely different way than before. Works councils must be informed transparently. Particularly in the case of systems with self-learning algorithms, they must also be able to call in experts for their work who can assess complex developments. This is also in the employer's interest.

Because the consequences of the use of AI are so far-reaching, works councils must also be given a genuine right of co-determination in the future in the strategic development of companies and in the - forward-looking - training for new fields of application. Personal rights, data protection and anonymization of data - the list could go on and on, but space here is limited. ChatGPT-4 - take over!