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The ‘gig economy’ takes on some damage… November 1, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As noted in signs of hope, and as the Observer (and EWI) reports this weekend:

Things are getting decidedly uncomfortable for employers in the informal gig economy. Last Friday’s long awaited employment tribunal judgement decide two Uber drivers weren’t self-employed and should be paid the ‘national living wage’ and holiday pay. The ride-hailing app had argued that the drivers, like the other 40,000 it uses in the UK are independent contractors who choose when and where to work.

As the Observer notes:

That notion always sounded fanciful, despite the free-wheeling life evoked by the gig economy’s name. Few people earning a few quid an hour have that much autonomy: one of the drivers told the tribunal he was put under ‘tremendous pressure’ to work long hours.

Even after the ruling it is claimed Uber is doing what one might expect.

The GMB union has accused Uber of misleading its drivers by claiming last week’s tribunal decision on working conditions only affects two drivers involved in the case.

I hate that term ‘gig economy’. It reifies frankly squalid work practices. And how could it be otherwise that people weren’t pressurised into working more – they need the money. We all do.

This disconnect between reality and appearance is all too prevalent.

The tribunal judges dismissed Uber’s claim that its London operation was a mosaic of thousands of small businesses linked by a technology platform as “faintly ridiculous”. They said Uber resorted to “fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology” to portray their drivers as self-employed.

Another aspect is that the ‘gig economy’ is continually overstated in terms of its size. Difficult not to believe that there’s a certain expedience in doing so for some.

There genuinely is no alternative for most workers other than stable well paid, good conditions, jobs. It is that simple and all those peddling an alternative narrative that a ‘gig economy’ could somehow provide that are simply incorrect.
I think it is interesting that there’s a push-back against it. I am – on reflection – not hugely surprised that that push-back seems to be gaining ground. There’s always been something cosmetic about the gig economy and the arguments made about it. Again, that disconnect between the reality of it for many and the supposed nature of it has been too great.

Of course there’s space for individuals to do more, or less, but to see it as a viable template for millions upon millions is delusionary. But there’s surely ways to craft flexible structures which don’t exploit workers.


1. dublinstreams - November 1, 2016

I saw a bike messenger being interviewed on newsnight complainign about conditions at a company, I think it was city sprint, I wondered why is she working for them at all?, have the completely taken over the bike cuorier busisness?


2. sonofstan - November 1, 2016

Having grown up in the real ‘gig’ economy, it’s somewhat strange to see the whole work world moving towards the model of the business for which there was once, in the words of the song, no business like it. Now every business is like show business.


3. Tomboktu - November 1, 2016

Anybody know what happened with the Ryanair case on something similar?

It’s a few years ago, but the basics were that Ryanair didn’t ’employ’ a newly recruited pilot. Instead, the pilot who was being offered work was asked which ’employer’ they wanted to use, and it turned out that they were being made director or employee (I can’t remember) of a company that had a contract with a second company that had a contract with Ryanair to provide pilots.

Like the gig economy, the scheme was designed to keep Ryanair away from any responsibility for employers social and pension contributions and to make the pilot self-employed, even though they were required to be available to Ryanair according to its roster.

The last I heard, a few years ago, the case was, eh, waiting for a “landing slot” in the High Court in London, but I never heard anything more. (I would expect a case against Ryanair of this scale would make news, so the silence may mean they settled.)

If anybody has any more information, it would be much appreciated.

Liked by 1 person

4. Gewerkschaftler - November 1, 2016

We badly need a model for cooperatives or a tradition of coops in this kind of business. I think I’ve linked this before…

There’s no reason why a cooperative can’t offer the same level of service in, for example, bike couriering, and use what would otherwise be extracted in profits for better wages & conditions and investment.

Am I the only one who hates the term ‘gig’ for precarious employment?

There’s a thesis or two there on the use of rock/pop clichés in deluding workers about their independence in precarity. They’ve almost certainly already been written. Adorno hat recht.


5. CL - November 1, 2016

“Theresa May has hired Tony Blair’s former policy chief to look at how to extend workers’ rights in the so-called “gig economy”, in an eye-catching attempt to show she is serious about moving her ruling Conservatives to the centre ground.”


CL - November 1, 2016

“the unhappiness at what amounts to old-fashioned exploitation has manifested itself in other ways, most obviously through the vote for Brexit on 23 June. This was the chance to protest at low pay and rotten employers and millions of people took that opportunity readily.”-Larry Elliott


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