UK union urges biometrics boycott

Summary:A UK union has told members at Westminster City Council to refuse to use biometric devices for clocking on and off, due to concerns over consultation and privacy.

A UK union has told members at Westminster City Council to refuse to use biometric devices for clocking on and off, due to concerns over consultation and privacy.

The council said the machines would cover up to 200 staff within its community protection department. But union Unison said some machines had already been installed at local offices for street scene and community warden staff, although the machines were not yet working.

"Our objections are two-fold," Unison assistant branch secretary Stephen Higgins told GC News. "Westminster hasn't consulted with the union before installing, although it intends to consult. Secondly, members are not confident that Westminster can hold their data securely and will not share their data with others, such as the Metropolitan Police."

The council said the system converted a low-resolution picture of a fingerprint into a number, and did not store an image of the print, so it could not be used for other purposes.

"We hope to introduce this technology as soon as possible, but this will only happen after a full consultation with staff," said Dean Ingledew, Westminster City Council's director of community protection.

"The system mainly applies to members of staff who are street-based and often work alone and late at night, and many say they actually feel safer with this system because, if anyone fails to sign in or out, it is flagged up immediately and calls are made to find out where they are," he added.

However, Unison's Higgins said that street-scene staff did not work alone, and that another justification given by the council, that the machines would control access to offices, was unfounded as the machines are being installed within offices, rather than at doors.

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