Union calls for halt to RFID tracking of workers

The GMB is calling on the European Commission to legislate to outlaw the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) and GPS satellite linked wearable computers to tag and track workers in the workplace.
Retailers including Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Tesco were faced with the charge of “dehumanising their workforce” in June, after research from the GMB union claimed the use of electronic tagging for staff was on the rise.

The report by Michael Blakemore, a professor at Durham University, found that companies – predominately those supplying goods to supermarkets – were increasingly requiring staff to wear devices on their wrists and fingers that tell them which goods to pick in different areas of warehouses.

However, the GMB claims the devices also register how long it takes workers to go from one part of the warehouse to another, what breaks the workers require, and how long they need to go to the toilet. “Any deviation from these times is not tolerated,” it said.

The companies vehemently denied this was the case.

Paul Kenny, acting GMB general secretary, said the EU appeared to be blissfully unaware of the possible uses of RFID and GPS linked wearable computer technology to tag workers and to ‘seriously invade their right to privacy’.

“Europe-wide legislation is urgently needed as this tracking technology is already in use in Britain,” he said. 

“No one has been consulted about its introduction and use and workers rights to privacy are being undermined. GMB is now raising the matter directly with the European Commission.”

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