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GMB Congress Demands End To Electronic Tagging Of Workers "Battery Farm" Workplaces

GMB press office


GMB Congress in Newcastle upon Tyne today demanded an end to the dehumanizing of work via the use of new computer and satellite technology particularly in the wholesale distribution industry that has the effect of electronically tagging the workforce and introducing new ‘battery farm’ style workplaces.

GMB demanded that employers recognize that the workforce would revolt against this dehumanization and that they had already done so in some workplaces where labour turnover in one year exceeded 300%.

There are a variety of wearable devices being used in Britain’s wholesale distribution industry to top up supplies to supermarkets and shops in every British high street. Some consist of computers worn on the arm and finger computers linked to local area radio networks and to GPS systems. Orders from shops are beamed to warehouses workers wearing these devices to tell them which goods to pick in different parts of the warehouses, for dispatch to top up the shelves. The only role for the worker is to do as the computer order requires. These devices calculate how long it takes to go from one part of the warehouse to the other and what breaks the workers need and how long they need to go to the toilet. Any deviation from these times is not tolerated. In effect these devices to dispatch goods to supermarkets and shops have made workers the aid to the computer rather than the other way round. The only functions that the human do are the bits that have not yet been automated.

This information was contained in a special report considered by congress. The report identified workplaces in Aberdeen, Baskingstoke, Bellshill, Bichester, Birmingham, Bracmills, Bristol, Daventry, Earlestown, Edinburgh, East Kilbride, Glasgow, Hemel Hempstead, Leicester, Leeds, Livingstone, Lutterworth, Maidstone, Milton Keynes, Neasden, North Fleet, Northampton, Radlet, Reading, Runcorn, Salford, Scunthrope, Slough, Stroud, Swindon, Telford, Thurrock and Wellingborough where the technology was already in use or potentially in use.

Paul Kenny, GMB Acting General Secretary said, “This technology which involves the electronic tagging of workers has been imported into Britain from the US. The GMB is no Luddite organisation but we will not stand idly by to see our members reduced to automatons. The use of this technology needs to be redesigned to be an aide to the worker rather than making the worker its slave. The supermarkets that rely on just in time shelf filling rather than holding buffer stocks are incredibly profitable companies. They can well afford to operate a humanized supply chain. They should do so quickly otherwise the GMB will ensure that the shelves do not get filled.”



Full report is available at


June 2005


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