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1.8 million gig workers were purged from Upwork – here’s why

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On February 2, Upwork ($NASDAQ:UPWK) listed 2,614,107 registered users. By March 13, that number nosedived to just 833,042, a bizarre and alarming drop of 1.8 million — or 68% of its user count.

The abrupt drop came just as the company was reporting its fourth-quarter results when it surprised investors with a 16.67% jump in earnings at $80.29 million. 

So what happened? Part of the shift may be attributed to Upwork’s new CEO, Hayden Brown, who emphasized that the company is targeting Fortune 500 companies as opposed to smaller, one-off companies just looking for a quick gig worker. At the earnings call, he spoke of a “skill gap” between what companies were looking for on a platform like Upwork and what they were getting.

“Our goal is to become the world’s top provider of flexible talent solutions by attracting the best clients, with the best work opportunities, for the world’s best talent,” he told investors.

It seems that as part of the process, the company has thinned its talent pool from 2.6 million available workers who may or may not deliver good work to just 833,000 who are more likely to please more lucrative clients. Indeed, the site had been seeing a growing number of workers along with a scarcity of jobs, and it wasn’t a good look for a service that promised quick matches and quality work.

Brown pointed to three goals for 2020:  1. Attract more, bigger clients; 2. Enable more spend per client; 3. Make more high-quality matches, particularly in Upwork’s technical categories of Web, Mobile, and Software Development.

In other words, Upwork is less interested in millions of projects for millions of workers. Rather, it’d prefer higher-paying clients going out to fewer workers who are certain to make said clients happy. Thin the herd, as they say. It makes sense, too: the number of projects at the site had been in a steep decline for months before Brown took the wheel.

In order to do so, the company is looking for larger companies that will hire from a smaller pool of skilled workers. Brown also pointed to Upwork’s talent pool’s high project feedback ratings.

And what’s a super-easy way to up your talent pool’s feedback ratings? Purge the ones with poor ratings.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online – jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings – and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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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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