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Seattle considers mandating hazard pay for gig workers during the pandemic

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The Seattle City Council is considering new emergency legislation that would require companies like Uber and Grubhub to pay drivers $5 for each delivery or ride they provide, on top of their regular rates. The hazard pay is intended to offset costs and risks that drivers are dealing with during the pandemic, like acquiring protective gear and cleaning vehicles between trips.

The hazard pay would apply to gig workers who provide services in Seattle for food delivery, grocery delivery, and ride-sharing companies with more than 250 workers worldwide.

Council members Andrew Lewis and Lisa Herbold introduced the legislation on Friday. If adopted, it would take effect immediately and remain in place until Seattle is no longer in a state of emergency.

“We’re in a crisis,” Lewis said in an interview with GeekWire. “No one projected that COVID was going to come along and nobody could predict the devastating impact that it has had to these app-based drivers who are getting hit when other essential workers are getting certain considerations.”

Uber declined to comment on the legislation but expressed concerns about the impact higher fees will have on customers and drivers.

“The Council’s actions to pass an unprecedented tax increase seriously harms essential workers and low-income community members who can’t afford private vehicles and are being told to avoid public transit during the pandemic,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “For thousands of nurses and healthcare aids, janitors, and food service workers, rideshare has become their only effective alternative for travel, and the Council’s move in the middle of a pandemic to increase fares by 50% in some cases would directly come out of their pockets.”

The ordinance is designed to provide temporary relief for Seattle gig workers but it will be nullified when Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Fare Share legislation is adopted. Durkan introduced her plan to establish a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers last year and the Seattle City Council unanimously passed it in November. The proposal is currently awaiting the results of a study to determine how to establish a minimum hourly rate for app-based drivers. Those results are expected in July.

“These workers that are facing these struggles cannot wait months to get relief,” Lewis said.

Last month, Seattle capped the fees that services like UberEats charge restaurants at 15% in an effort to mitigate the financial hardship that the food industry is enduring under Washington state’s shutdown order. The fee cap will remain in place until restaurants are allowed to re-open. The emergency order also requires 100% of tips to go to delivery drivers. The new legislation is designed to expand relief for the drivers who provide food delivery and transportation services.

The legislation is a win for Working Washington, a group that advocates on behalf of gig workers.

“We need hazard pay, and we need to know we’re able to go to the doctor, we need to know we have something in the bank,” said James Thomas, a driver for a variety of food delivery services who is connected to Working Washington. “But instead of hazard pay, the companies started lowering the pay by hiring so many people. It just isn’t worth the risk of getting sick for a $2 delivery.”

Gig economy companies and workers have been hit hard by the pandemic. Ride-share drivers, dog walkers, and other on-demand workers saw their incomes dry up overnight. The picture is grim for the companies behind these services too. Uber has laid off more than 6,000 employees in the past few weeks while Lyft reduced its staff by 17%.



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Gig economy saves Australia’s jobs market, but at what cost?

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Don’t be surprised if employers use the recession to employ more casuals and outsource more work.

(Image: Adobe)

There were three messages in the confusing jobs data for August that emerged yesterday from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The headline number was dramatically better than any economist, or even the Reserve Bank or Treasury, had predicted.

The first is, despite the claims from the media and the Morrison government that the Andrews government’s lockdown was some profound act of economic vandalism, Victoria’s jobless rate only moved up to 7.1% from 6.8%, with 42,000 jobs lost in that state last month. Hours fell by 4.8% in Victoria, compared with a 1.8% rise across the rest of Australia.

Now there may well be another big fall in Victoria in the September data as the numbers catch up. There will be a clue in the ABS’s next payroll jobs and wages data next week.



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Collaboration in the Gig Economy keynote

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September 17, 2020

Engagement managers already have a much more complex choice than in the past. It’s not just whether to hire a traditional employee to get a job done — the procurement supply chain is much larger. Today’s choices include using a staffing agency temp, engaging an independent contractor, calling in an SOW consultant or turning to an online work platform. And technology continues to bring changes — with Covid-19 speeding up the evolution.

“I would argue that times of crisis and times of change, like we are in today, will help propel the next stage of digital transformation,” SIA President Barry Asin said in a keynote address today kicking off the Collaboration in the Gig Economy virtual conference.

Asin cited technological change wrought by the last recession: In 2007, only 24% of large companies had a VMS in place; by 2010, the percentage had grown to 64%.

Fast forward to today, there was $1 billion in venture capital funding focused on the HR tech space in the second quarter alone.

Large companies that use staffing are turning to tech more and more. SIA data found 43% of large staffing buyers foresee an increase in usage of online staffing/talent pool in the next 10 years. Evolving concepts such as direct sourcing are already used by 30% of buyers, and 49% plan to put a direct-sourcing program in place within the next two years; much of it fueled by new tech offerings.

“I think that what we’re seeing — particularly for the traditional service providers in the talent supply chain — is a real digital transformation, and the current crisis is accelerating that digital transformation,” Asin said. “And it’s accelerating it for all the players involved at the different points of that supply chain.”

Already, 54 million Americans did gig work in 2019, approximately 34% of the workforce, according to SIA data. That amounts to $1.3 trillion in spend with the largest share going to independent contractors. SIA defines the gig economy as including all types of contingent work, encompassing

  • staffing agency temporary workers
  • SOW consultants
  • directly hired temporaries
  • online platform workers
  • independent contractors

The Collaboration in the Gig Economy Conference brings together all parts of the ecosystem to talk the latest trends and advances. Attendees include enterprise buyers, staffing suppliers, VMS/MSP companies, human cloud/on demand platforms and technology solutions providers.

“There is a wave and a transformational change that we are seeing in society,” Asin said. “Many of you are on the leading edge of that change.”

The virtual event continues through tomorrow.

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Australia – Victorian government launches consultation for feedback on its gig economy report

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17 September 2020

The Victorian government inviting Victorians to make submissions about all or some of the recommendations into its report on the gig economy.

The Victorian Government first commissioned its ‘Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce’ in September 2018 in response to concerns about the wages and conditions of workers in the on-demand or ‘gig economy’.

The Inquiry, which was chaired by former Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James, completed its investigations and submitted a report to Government. The report was published in July 2020.

The two-year investigation found that online platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo in Victoria have deliberately framed their arrangements with workers to avoid regulation while other businesses carry the cost of complying with workplace laws.

While some appreciated the flexibility on-demand work provides, James found the uncertain status of workers, who are not classified as employees and therefore do not qualify for workplace entitlements, protections and obligations, was at the heart of the system’s failures of workers.

The report made 20 recommendations for both the federal and state governments aimed at improving protections for on-demand workers.

The Victorian government stated on its site that all submissions will be treated in confidence to allow people to ‘frankly share their views’. The Victorian Government added that it will consider all feedback received before responding to the Inquiry’s Report.

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