Feature Interview – Preparing Employees for Automation
Technology is being introduced into mining operations faster than ever. Some jobs are lost to automation and new ones are being created. In the middle of this change are the employees.
This week we had the opportunity to interview Felipe Román Briones, Union President in Compañía Minera Doña Inés de Collahuasi, and President of the Mining Federation. With more than thirteen years of experience in the industry, we spoke with Felipe about the integrations of new technologies in mining operations and how this is looked at from an employee level.
Ax Legal: What is your role today as the Union President?
Felipe: I am responsible for advancing the collective welfare of workers and thus ensuring improvement in terms of health, education, remuneration, housing and equal rights.
Ax Legal: What is the main objective today given the changes that the pandemic has brought in terms of technology at mine sites?
Felipe: Today, there is widespread concern due to the non-existent communication about the future changes that are coming in the mining sector. Therefore, the objective today is that there is transparency in communication and that we are part of these changes. This can be done through training and technical education regarding new processes and technology. This will help ensure that the workers feel capable of facing changes that are happening in the industry and do not fear losing their jobs due to advances in technology.
Ax Legal: How can foreign providers of technologies and services maintain a good relationship with the unions?
Felipe: Mainly that there is communication, since today it does not exist at all. One of the opportunities for foreign or local providers when introducing their services to the mining operations is to train staff on the use of these new tools, help workers to understand how the new changes to machinery will take place, and generally including them so that they do not fear these new changes,
Ax Legal: Technology with automation is reducing some jobs but creating others. How does this look from the union’s perspective?
Felipe: At this moment, different mining operations are testing new processes, a couple of autonomous trucks have been tested, but the change is not in its entirety. Operations continue to operate normally with traditional machinery. Although, we know that these new changes are coming. All companies are expected to focus on educating operators, making them part of this process. If not, there will be fear within the workforce and it will not be looked at as an opportunity as it should be.
Ax Legal: How are Chilean universities or mining companies preparing workers for the new jobs that are being created from this change in technology?
Felipe: There has been no changes, since universities continue to teach traditional careers and are not yet focused on these technological advances that are approaching. Likewise, as I mentioned earlier, already with machinery operators there is a lot of misinformation. There are many opportunities, we have staff with years of experience who want to join this change and we hope to be part of it but there must be opportunities to learn the new technologies.
Ax Legal: What else could be done to prepare workers for these advances?
Felipe: It is important to keep in mind that companies have the responsibility of training and informing their work force, making them part of these new processes. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the employees to have a good disposition to change and be open to learning, which I can confirm exists today.
We know that new technologies such as process automation, remote work, or 5G, are already on the way. Therefore, there must be technical preparation for the workers to be able to use and understand machinery and technology. Today, with the ease that technology provides, such as video conferencing, it opens up the possibility to provide training remotely.
I believe that all the stakeholders need to take these points into consideration. We should ensure that the workers are not left behind. There is a desire to work, people and their families depend on it. There is an opportunity to have open communication with everyone involved regarding the technological advances that are already taking place. More focus needs to be on the communication at this stage.
Ax Legal is a legal and business advisory firm that works with foreign companies in Latin America. Our team of legal and commercial advisors have a distinguished track record of helping foreign technology and services companies to grow and operate in Latin America. Over the years, we have worked with starts up, mid-size businesses, and publicly listed companies. The one common factor that connects are clients is that they are leaders in their field, providing innovative technologies and services to the industrial sectors.
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