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New Uber App Pairs Gig Workers With Employers

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The Uber Works app, which made its debut in Chicago on Thursday, is designed to match workers such as chefs and cleaners with companies looking to fill a temporary opening.

The app enables users to sift through jobs by location, pay and skills, Uber said, adding that it spent the past year testing it. Uber also said it plans to work with staffing companies, such as

TrueBlue Inc.,

that employ, pay and handle worker benefits. Similar to its ride-hailing service, Uber will use an algorithm to set the wages for jobs that employers list on its app, instead of the employers doing it.

Uber’s move to offer a service to gig workers, rather than employ them directly, comes as its mainstay business is under financial and regulatory pressure. Last month, California passed employment legislation intended to force companies that rely on gig workers to reclassify such independent contractors as employees. Uber and rival

Lyft Inc.

have spent much of the year opposing the measure, arguing that it would introduce new costs and hurt their drivers who prefer flexible work arrangements.

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The law threatens to upend Uber’s business model, which relies on gig workers such as drivers, and to further erode its bottom line. The company in August posted its largest quarterly loss, weighed down by competition in growth markets such as Latin America, slowing growth in its core ride-hailing business and one-time expenses related to its initial public offering.

Revenue grew 14% to $3.17 billion in the second quarter, Uber’s smallest quarterly increase. The company laid off more than 400 technical employees last month and pared back its marketing workforce in July.

Uber wants to tap into a lucrative market with its new app. Over a third of U.S. workers participate in the gig economy through their primary or secondary jobs, a 2018 Gallup study found. The International Labor Organization, using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, estimated that gig workers would account for 43% of the U.S. workforce by 2020.

Uber Works won’t be the first to connect temporary workers with potential employers.

Upwork Inc.

and

Fiverr International Ltd.,

which completed initial public offerings last year and this year, respectively, are among startups that have launched platforms to help connect freelancers with work. Venture-capital firms including Sequoia Capital back other players that offer a similar service.

Nevertheless, it shows how aggressively Uber is expanding into new areas.

Chief Executive

Dara Khosrowshahi

said last week that the company was experimenting with merging some of its services onto the same app. Uber’s offerings include ride-sharing, food delivery and on-demand helicopters. It is also ramping up hiring for its freight business at a planned hub in Chicago.

For an increasing number of Americans, a patchwork of gig work is the norm, while others have become so-called independent workers because they take second jobs through digital platforms like Uber or Etsy to make ends meet. But nearly all face the challenges of inconsistent income and access to benefits.

The Uber Works app would generate revenue by charging businesses a fee after a position has been successfully filled, an Uber spokesman said. The fee will depend on how much work a job seeker completes.

Uber will set compensation for jobs based on such factors as regulatory requirements and cost of labor in an effort to “ensure a high fill rate for available shifts,” the spokesman said.

That business model, though, could put Uber at risk of drawing more government scrutiny, said

Sanjukta Paul,

a law professor at Wayne State University. Traditionally, staffing firms share some responsibility with employers in ensuring that workers are compensated fairly.

“An app that connects workers with customers, while disclaiming any employment relationship, can raise precisely the same problems around issues like price-fixing and joint bargaining,” Ms. Paul said.

The challenges also extend beyond potential regulatory hurdles and stiff competition. Until now, Uber has focused on recruiting only drivers, whereas its new endeavor entails matching employers with people for a range of jobs. That is more difficult—and the reason most staffing firms focus on filling vacancies in specific industries or categories, like remote work, said

Louis Hyman,

a professor at Cornell University’s industrial and labor relations school.

“Uber’s model has worked before because driving is an interchangeable skill in a space that is outside the office,” he said. “Staffing is a very different business than delivering people or food from point A to point B. It’s not going to be as easy as they think.”

It is possible, though, that Uber could modernize and improve staffing in ways not yet conceived, as it did with the taxi business.

“So far nobody has found the secret sauce to disrupt staffing,” said Barry Asin, president of Staffing Industry Analysts, an independent research firm focused on the gig economy. “One of the big questions in the space for some time has been, Who’s going to become the Uber of staffing?”

A potential advantage for Uber is that it already has relationships with hundreds of thousands of drivers, who are essentially people who are open to short-term job opportunities, Mr. Asin said. “They may not love driving but Uber made it easy for them to find work,” he said, adding that those same people may be inclined to give Uber a chance at helping them find other jobs, too.

Write to Preetika Rana at preetika.rana@wsj.com and Sarah E. Needleman at sarah.needleman@wsj.com

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How Proposition 22 Blocks Cities and Counties From Giving Hazard Pay to Gig Workers

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Haney added that Proposition 22 has given gig companies legal grounds to sue and block an ordinance like this if they decide they don’t want to comply with it.

“Sometimes, as a local government, we are preempted by the states or feds, but usually when that’s the case, another regulatory body or the state Legislature is taking up the responsibility,” Haney said. “What’s the case here is that some regulations that were written into law by the companies and passed by the voters have made it impossible for anyone to provide more extensive and stronger regulations.”

Rey Fuentes, a legal fellow at the Partnership for Working Families, said California cities and counties have a history of pioneering progressive pro-worker legislation, like San Francisco’s paid sick leave program, which he said was the first of its kind in the nation.

Fuentes said it’s important for municipalities to test new policies out so that there are models for state and federal laws. “This allows for the experimentation that I think is so vital to our democracy and to developing good policy,” he said.

While grocery stores are pushing back on the hazard pay by temporarily closing locations and threatening legal action, gig companies don’t have to. Proposition 22 stops local governments from even trying to get higher wages or better benefits for gig workers, halting local experimentation with policy that could help the state’s growing number of app-based gig workers who are denied employee benefits and protections.

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IIROC Trading Halt – GIG.P – Yahoo Finance

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UK Deliveroo riders to strike over pay, gig work conditions

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Wednesday, April 07 2021
AP

LONDON (AP) — Riders for the app-based meal delivery platform Deliveroo held a strike in London Wednesday over pay and working conditions, part of a broader backlash against one of the U.K.’s biggest gig economy companies.

Scooter and bicycle delivery riders waving flags and red smoke flares rode through the streets of Central London. Socially distanced protests were also planned in York, Reading, Sheffield and Wolverhampton to demand fair pay, safety protections and basic workers’ rights.

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, which represents migrant and gig workers, expected hundreds of riders to take part.

Deliveroo said that “this small self-appointed union does not represent the vast majority of riders who tell us they value the total flexibility they enjoy.” Rider surveys found most are happy with the company and flexibility was their priority, the company said in a statement.

The strike coincides with the first day of unconditional share trading for Deliveroo, which went public last week in a multibillion pound stock offering that was one of Europe’s most hotly anticipated IPOs this year. However, a number of institutional investors skipped the initial public offering, citing concerns about employment conditions for riders and a dual-class shareholder structure that gives founder Will Shu outsize control.

The company, which operates in a dozen countries in Europe, the Mideast and Asia, saw its business boom over the past year because of COVID-19 restrictions that powered demand for meal deliveries. More than 6 million customers order through its app each month and the company promised some longtime riders bonuses from the IPO.

However, riders say they haven’t been sharing in the success because the company has been paying them less.

The “success they claim to have had during the pandemic was built on our backs,” said Wave Roberts, a Deliveroo rider in Reading and vice chair of the union’s couriers branch. “It’s not sustainable. It’s got to the point where they’ve hired too many people. They’ve lowered the fees too much.”

Deliveroo and other gig companies in the U.K. that rely on flexible workforces are also facing looming regulatory challenges, after the U.K.’s top court ruled Uber drivers should be classed as “workers” and not self-employed, entitling them to benefits such as minimum wage and pensions.

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For all of AP’s tech coverage, visit https://apnews.com/apf-technology

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Follow Kelvin Chan at www.twitter.com/chanman

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This story corrects Roberts’ title to vice chair of union’s couriers branch.

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