Ley de Inteligencia Artificial europea

The European Artificial Intelligence Act strengthens labor protection

We kick off 2024 with a headline from the Davos Forum: 40% of jobs - up to 60% in the most advanced economies - will be affected by AI. Amid the uncertainty, European workers have a pioneering regulatory framework that strengthens labor protection thanks to the recently passed AI Law, explains Ana B. Muñoz, a member of the AI+Equal Advisory Board.

Madrid, March 20. Based on the need to study in depth the almost 500 pages of the new IA LawAna B. Muñoz, professor of Labor Law and Social Security at the Carlos III University of Madrid, says that "it is a step forward because it implies a framework of reinforced protection for workers against the implementation of AI in the workplace; in addition, it fills a gap that until now we had in Europe and can be an example for other countries outside the European Union".

The UC3M professor of Labor Law and Social Security emphasizes that the regulation establishes labor references throughout its articles on the worker, employment, management of workers and makes explicit mention of several high-risk issues, i.e., those that affect the fundamental rights of the person: "Guarantees are typified in everything related to hiring - prohibiting decisions that may influence discrimination against workers -, promotion, setting working conditions and termination of contractual relations.

These guarantees established by the AI Law will never imply full delegation to the machine or to artificial intelligence: "Human supervision will always be necessary, and in the event of errors or cases of discrimination, the people affected will be able to turn to someone within the company with competence and training to review these decisions," Muñoz explains.

This expert in labor law highlights another important area of legal coverage: "Automated emotion recognition systems are prohibited in the workplace, with a few exceptions, such as in the case of safety. It would be possible, for example, to assess whether a pilot is very tired before taking off on a flight". For the professor, both the General Data Protection Regulation, at the time, and now the Artificial Intelligence Law positively values and establishes human intervention as a guarantee.

No turning back

IDC president Crawford Del Prete pointed out last week at a conference in Boston that, although many companies do not yet have an AI plan that includes key applications and monitoring, the technology will account for 29% of corporate spending by 2027.

In this path with no turning back, "the AI Law places companies in a new situation. We have precedents that can give us clues such as, for example, the adaptation to the Law on Occupational Risk Prevention or data protection legislation, but obviously, companies will need training and cross-cutting work teams that take into account the possible impact of the technological tool in various areas. We will have to see what the organizational structure of the company is, but there may be cases in which the regulation not only has an impact on salary conditions or dismissal, but also on the mental health of workers".

The company must generate trust among its employees

The main challenge for companies that want to welcome artificial intelligence - it will be difficult not to apply it - is to build trust between workers and union representation. "If we use the tool not only with a view to improving productivity, but also to improve the working conditions of workers and they are able to perceive that benefit, there will be fewer obstacles to the use of artificial intelligence. It can be a win-win for both sides."

Although there is a high risk that jobs with less added value will be replaced or others will be automated, human skills remain important. Companies moving along the path proposed by Muñoz of optimizing their resources and achieving greater efficiency should also retrain workers and train them to develop the new skills needed.

The most advantageous conditions for workers prevail

The new law recognizes the duty of information to trade unions and workers on the part of companies using high-risk AI systems. There is a duty of transparency that has a dual collective and individual dimension. But, in addition, Ana B. Muñoz stresses that the regulation makes express reference in Article 2.11 of Chapter One to the possibility of collective agreements establishing more favorable rules for workers than the regulation itself at the national level.

Therefore, he concludes with a positive view of the law because “no solo garantiza que no se reduzcan los derechos de los trabajadores por la implantación de la IA si no que, además, permite que el legislador o los interlocutores sociales colectivos de cada estado miembro pueden establecer normas más favorables en este sentido».

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