Workers Tracked On the Job
By George Anderson
The idea is straightforward. Companies in the U.K., including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Boots and Marks & Spencer, are having warehouse workers wear mini computers on their
wrists, fingers, arms and in vests to improve communication and enhance operational efficiencies.
It is this continuous “surveillance” that has some within trade unions and elsewhere wondering if companies have gone too far in their search to reduce costs and manage their
businesses more effectively.
Martin Dodge, a researcher at the centre for advanced spatial analysis at University College London, told The Guardian, “These devices mark the total ‘disappearance of
disappearance’ where the employee is unable to do anything without the machine knowing or monitoring.”
Others are concerned, that by finding the most efficient way to do certain tasks, companies may wind up injuring workers who are required to repeat physical actions based on
a computer analysis.
Still others think the computers are turning humans into little more than flesh and blood robots. A union official, Paul Campbell, said, “We are having reports of people walking
out of jobs after a few days’ work, in some cases just a few hours. They are all saying that they don’t like the job because they have no input. They just followed a computer’s
Moderator’s Comment: Is the use of technology, as is being done in the U.K., to track employee activities on the job a legitimate method for improving
organizational efficiency and effectiveness or is it, as critics suggest, an invasion of privacy, a potential physical danger to workers and a killer of individual initiative?
George Anderson – Moderator