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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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In Season Of Strikes For Gig Workers, Now Swiggy Delivery Execs In Noida Rebel

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After strikes in Chennai and Hyderabad in the last 30 days, Swiggy’s delivery executives in Noida have gone on strike to protest against low wages

The delivery workers are demanding a minimum payout of INR 35 per order and restoration of monthly incentives, among other demands

Similar demands were also raised by Swiggy’s delivery partners in Hyderabad, who went on an indefinite strike last week

With similar demands as their counterparts in Chennai and Hyderabad, delivery executives with Indian foodtech unicorn Swiggy in Noida, on Thursday (September 17), went on a strike to protest against low wages. 

The strike comes just days after Swiggy’s delivery partners went on an indefinite strike in Hyderabad to protest against the low wages and to press their demands. 

In Noida, the protesting delivery workers are demanding a minimum payout per order of INR 35, a minimum payout of INR 20 per batched order (when the driver has to make more than one delivery in a single trip), and a payout at the rate of INR 10 per km after the worker has travelled more than 5 km for making a delivery, among other things.

The delivery partners in Noida, affiliated with the All India Gig Workers Union (AIGWU), have also demanded the reinstatement of monthly incentives of up to INR 3,000 for full-time work and INR 2,000 for part-time work. 

Further, the delivery partners are also demanding extra wages for deliveries made while it rains, or in nights, as also, compensation for waiting time at restaurants, while the order is being prepared. 

“Swiggy delivery workers are taking extraordinary risks by delivering food and essentials to people during this pandemic. The company cannot reward us by cutting our payouts and incentives. Our demands should be met at the earliest,” reads the letter stating the demands of AIGWU for Swiggy’s delivery workers, addressed to Swiggy’s CEO Sriharsha Majety. 

The demands of the delivery workers in Noida are similar to the demands of the workers in Hyderabad, who, earlier this week, launched an indefinite strike to protest against Swiggy paying low wages to the delivery workers. 

The workers in Hyderabad have alleged that during the lockdown, their minimum payout per order reduced from INR 35 to INR 15, while the company also removed monthly incentives to the tune of INR 5,000. 

When asked about the protest of delivery workers in Hyderabad earlier this week, a Swiggy spokesperson told Inc42, “Most delivery partners in Hyderabad make over INR 45 per order, with the highest performing partners making over INR 75 per order. This INR 15 is only one of the many components of the service fee.”

“Naturally, no active delivery partners in Hyderabad have made only INR 15 per order in the last four weeks. It is important to note that the service fee per order is based on multiple factors to adequately compensate our partners including distance travelled, waiting time, customer experience, shift completion and incentives. Regular competitive benchmarking shows that these are at par, if not higher than the industry standards,” Spokesperson added.

In what has been a season of strikes for gig workers, last month, Swiggy’s delivery executives in Chennai had gone on strike to press for their demands. A few days after the strike in Chennai, Swiggy told NDTV that the company had had a positive dialogue with the protesting delivery partners and was back to serving the entire city of Chennai with its fleet of workers.

Meanwhile, the Indian government’s new draft social security code is said to have recognised gig workers, and will mandate gig economy companies to contribute to a social security fund for gig and platform workers, reported Business Standard. Approved by the Union Cabinet last week, the code, which will have several other benefits outlined for gig workers, will come up in the Parliament’s ongoing monsoon session.



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Gig work is risky for apps, too – Hartford Courant

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