Labour and Small Enterprise Development Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus has warned that the era of robotics is already here.
"US experts predict that robots will create 15 million new jobs in the US over the next ten years, as a direct result of automation and artificial intelligence: an equivalent of ten per cent of their workforce, and that robotics will also eliminate 25 million jobs over the same period.”
She was speaking at the sub-regional trade union conference on the Future of Work organised by the Bureau for Workers’ Activities of the International Labour Organisation, in co-operation with the ILO office for the Caribbean, at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s.
She said it has been reported that robots are already replacing jobs as couriers and could soon take over the jobs of farmers, taxi drivers, customer service and office assistants, health care workers, warehouse workers, journalists and truck drivers using self-driving trucks.
In the US, she said, studies showed about six years ago that between 47 and 60 per cent of workers had jobs at high risk of potential automation.
“Of course, these numbers will vary from country to country (but) no country will be spared the disruptive impact of what the future of work has in store for us.
"How we in TT and indeed the Caribbean region manage this era of drastic workforce transformation will undeniably test the dexterity of our people, the sensitivity and flexibility of labour leaders to adapt to modifications which the future of work will inevitably impose upon all of us.”
She encouraged all union representatives to take comfort in the conference, because it could be an opportunity for workers' organisations.
Baptiste-Primus said the conference could be used to discuss the profound changes sweeping the world of work and to develop strategies on the future of work with a view to channelling the developments towards the cause of social justice.
National Trade Union Centre general secretary Michael Annisette called on other trade union representatives to address social issues which affect workers daily.
Annisette said the decision process for workers has to become necessary and imperative in order to move forward. He said it is the mandate of union leaders to solve the problems.
“It is we who have to solve our problems, and it is in this context I welcome the opportunity for having this conference and an exchange of ideas in TT. We at NATUC believe that we have to be solution wise.
“In light of the current global realities, we believe the region faces the imperative of reforming and repositioning ourselves. And that repositioning in the region has to be part of a system and a process that is designed and determined by us and no one else.”