Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Labour Protection (April 2019)

Presented by Professor Valerio De Stefano.

CELRL Labour Law Seminar

Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Labour Protection

Seminar presented by Professor Valerio De Stefano

Wednesday 10 April 2019: 1–2pm at Melbourne Law School

About the event

The academic and policy debate on automation and artificial intelligence has concentrated, so far, on how many jobs will be lost as a consequence of technological innovation. This seminar examined instead issues related to the quality of jobs in future labour markets. It addressed the detrimental effects on workers of awarding legal capacity and rights and obligation to AI and robots. It examined the implications of practices such as People Analytics and the use of big data to manage the workforce. It stressed on an oft-neglected feature of the contract of employment, namely the fact that it vests the employer with authority and managerial prerogatives over workers. It points out that a vital function of labour law is to limit these authority and prerogatives to protect the human dignity of workers. In light of this, it argued that even if a Universal Basic Income were introduced, the existence of managerial prerogatives would still warrant the existence of labour regulation since this regulation is about much more than protecting workers’ income. It then highlighted the benefits of human-rights based approaches to labour regulation to protect workers’ privacy against invasive electronic monitoring. It concluded by highlighting the crucial role of collective regulation and social partners in governing automation and the impact of technology at the workplace, by advocating for a crucial “human-in-command” approach to foster labour protection and human dignity.

About the speaker

Valerio De Stefano is the BOFZAP Research Professor of Labour Law at KU Leuven, Belgium, where he does research on technology and fundamental labour rights. He obtained his PhD (2007-2011) at Bocconi, where he also received a postdoctoral fellowship for four years (2011-2014). He was a Distinguished Speaker at The William C. Wefel Center for Employment Law at Saint Louis University Law School for Spring 2018, a post-doctoral member at Clare Hall College at the University of Cambridge (2013) and a visiting academic at the University College of London (2012) and, until 2014, he practiced law in Milan. From 2014 to 2017, he worked as an officer of the International Labour Office (ILO) in Geneva. He is currently at the University of Melbourne as Senior Fellow (Melbourne Law Masters).