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Finding health insurance a headache for gig workers | Mid-Missouri News

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COLUMBIA – When Amy Crousore decided to become a full-time musician 3 years ago, she never imagined a pandemic would dry up her business.

Now, 8 months into the global health crisis, Crousore is reflecting on the struggles of the gig industry.

“Everything shut down and there was just no back up for us,” she said.

She said many of her colleagues were already taking day jobs before the pandemic just so they could receive health insurance.

Crousore has also taken up a job as a caretaker to make ends meet until venues reopen.

“We compared about 12 different healthcare plans,” she said. “I considered whether I would have to take a loan to pay for a more expensive plan.”

Health insurance is a headache Jason Gruender and Jen Wheeler know well.

Gruender manages Liberty Family Medicine with his wife, a doctor.

Wheeler manages Big Tree Medical Home with her husband, also a doctor.

Both clinics operate through unconventional business models that are less reliant on traditional insurance plans. Instead, you pay for a membership or one-time fees.

“We believe in our model, and it’s working well across the nation, and it’s working well here in Columbia,” Wheeler said.

Gruender is also confident in his clinic.

“I think we have a broken health care system,” he said. “The clinic is not a complete solution to that problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

As the world navigates a pandemic, the path to affordable health care has been riddled with troubles.

Crousore worries necessities like health care will alter the landscape of the music industry.

“Do you want there to be nobody you can call to play for your wedding because everybody is working 40 hours a week to get insurance,” Crousore asked. “What kind of world do you want?”

Gruender and Wheeler also said choosing a health insurance plan is an important decision that should be given lots of thought.

Enrollment through the Affordable Care Act is open right now and closes Dec. 15. There are other enrollment periods for special life events, such as getting married.

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GiG to provide compliance tool to Nano Casino

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Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) has signed an agreement with Finnplay Group-owned Nano Casino, for the provision of its affiliate marketing compliance tool, GiG Comply.

The supplier said the automated marketing compliance solution enables operators to scan web pages for content including links and igaming ‘code red’ words.

It works by using its rules engine to analyse snapshots from affiliate marketing campaigns, and provides operators with the promotional content that is being used to promote its brand.

GiG says the tool is flexible and allows operators to set up their own criteria and checklist parameters that can be tailored to their own market-specific requirements.

“At Nano Casino we strive to ensure not only player satisfaction but also compliance with the different legislation applicable in each jurisdiction we operate in and we believe that our partnership with GiG will make us reach this goal much more efficiently and holistically,” said Daniel Lilja, Nano Casino’s head of marketing.

Jonas Warrer, managing director at GiG Media, added: ‘’It’s now more important than ever for operators to ensure that their marketing efforts meet market-specific legislation and advertising standards globally.”

“We are proud to add Nano Casino to our partners’ list and are happy that they have chosen GiG Comply as their partner of choice to help support them with their marketing compliance strategy for 2021”

The intellectual rights to Nano Casino were transferred to Finnplay Group’s Viral Interactive B2B subsidiary from Global Gaming in July 2020.

Nano is the latest brand to incorporate GiG Comply into its offering. LeoVegas struck a deal with the supplier in December to include the tool into its platform, and it has been used by Betfred since September 2019.

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automation: From automation to gig economy, India needs to work on its skilling program

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For a labour surplus economy, India faces acute shortage of skilled workers. The recent Human Development Report 2020 highlighted that one out of five workers in India is skilled. According to the report, skilled labour as a percentage of the labour force in India stands at 21.2%, and other countries which share a similar position include the likes of Sudan, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Liberia. Amidst the pandemic’s adverse blow to the country’s



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The Europeans rethinking the gig economy model

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A few weeks ago delivery company Just Eat announced plans to move away from using ‘gig economy’ workers, instead offering driver benefits including hourly wages, sick pay and pension contributions.

The company, which merged this year with Netherlands-based rival Takeaway.com, in effect threw down the gauntlet to rivals such as Uber, Deliveroo and Glovo who are still using workers with no employment rights and benefits. 

But Just Eat’s announcement is merely the latest development in a shift across Europe — encouraged by growing regulation and also a growing discourse against gig workers — that has seen others like courier federation CoopCycle look for a new employment model.

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Meanwhile, Uber is awaiting a verdict from the UK Supreme Court, which could force it to pay drivers an hourly minimum wage and holiday pay.

These shifts could see Europe at the vanguard of a global movement away from using gig working — that is, if other European tech companies follow their lead.

“The right thing to do”

Just Eat’s UK managing director Andrew Kenny tells Sifted that the decision on a new employment contract comes from a place of moral responsibility.

“We feel very strongly as a business that affording couriers the protections that come with this model is the right thing to do. We’re fortunate that as a successful and profitable and market leading business that we’re in a position to do so,” he says.

While declining to put a figure on it, Just Eat told Sifted that the costs of this new model are “significant”, as the company will be supplying riders with e-scooters and bikes, which will be collected from a central hub.

“It’s a very different model, we have a hub in central London where the electric bikes and electric scooters are stored, where couriers can come in and take a break, use the facilities and have a hot drink, so you’re dealing with real estate in London and as we expand, elsewhere,” explains Kenny.

While this might present a significant cost for Just Eat, Kenny believes it also goes some way to reducing the stress of vehicle maintenance costs that gig economy workers face.

“We’re providing them with the electric bike or electric scooter, so the maintenance is all taken care of for them. If they have an issue they jump on another bike so they don’t have the same stresses that go with alternative models where you would be responsible naturally for that kind of thing yourself,” he says.

It is worth noting that Just Eat has long differed from competitors like Deliveroo and Uber Eats, in that it also relies on delivery drivers employed by the restaurants themselves. This means that the cost of giving its own couriers employment contracts is relatively cheaper than it would be for rivals, as they represent a smaller portion of the delivery fleet.

Ownership

Another example of a growing response to delivery apps is the rise in rider-owned cooperatives.

Based in Paris, CoopCycle is a federation of courier platform cooperatives that are active in more than 50 cities in eight countries.

CoopCycle helps couriers launch their own cooperative delivery businesses, sharing the tech for the platform software, the customer facing smartphone app, and knowledge around business strategy and pricing.

CoopCycle
The CoopCycle app and web platform

All riders working with the CoopCycle model are employees and, beyond giving couriers stable income, organisers say this also makes the work safer than a pay-per-job model.

“Being a courier is a dangerous job, you have to cycle as fast as you can to complete as many jobs as possible,” says Adrien Claude, European coordinator for CoopCycle. “We are not in a model in which the faster you ride and the more lights you jump, the more money you get.”

“Restaurants are sick of the service because, as couriers aren’t treated well, the consequence is that the service is shit.””

Claude adds that the employee model leads to a better relationship with restaurants: “Restaurants are sick of the (gig economy) platforms. They’re sick of the service because, as couriers aren’t treated well, the consequence is that the service is shit.”

CoopCycle relies on exclusive deals with restaurants to make the service viable in the face of the big, heavily-backed alternatives with big marketing budgets.

“We can’t afford sponsorship with a football club, we can’t afford advertising on TV,” Claude explains. “What we have to sell is something different. We want a virtuous circle between customer, city, restaurant and couriers, with couriers protected.”

The scale of CoopCycle’s operations is understandably much smaller than gig economy models. Claude says that in the federation’s most active cities (Nantes, Berlin, and Grenobles), cooperatives employ between 10-20 couriers.

And while growth-minded observers might sniff at such numbers, the cooperative movement is gaining momentum, with accelerators and incubators popping up on both sides of the Atlantic. 

A third way?

Those who stand accused of exploiting drivers and riders see it differently. 

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi has previously argued for what he calls a “third way”, where drivers keep the flexibility of the self employed model, while still receiving some benefits like holiday pay or sick leave.

This, according to some campaigners, is disingenuous.

James Farrar is a former Uber driver and general secretary of the UK-based App Drivers and Couriers Union. He says that this “third way” already exists in the UK, but is exactly what Uber are arguing against in the courts.

“If you look at what he’s arguing in the US, he’s arguing for something between self employed and employed. We have that here in the UK and they’ve spent the last five years fighting against it, telling everybody the law was obsolete and needed to be updated and of course this couldn’t work,” he says.

James Farrar, general secretary of the UK-based App Drivers and Couriers Union

The tech platform is currently fighting a decision made by a UK employment tribunal that classed Uber drivers as “limb (b)” workers. 

Limb (b) is a legal worker classification in the UK for so-called “dependant contractors”, who are self employed but “provide a service as part of someone else’s business.” 

This, says Farrar, fits the Uber model perfectly, and would entitle drivers to just the kind of benefits that Khosrowshahi claims to support. Uber is currently contesting the classification in the UK Supreme Court.

“It’s a prime example of Uber saying one thing in California and then spending millions on lawyers on this side of the Atlantic to defeat the same argument,” Farrar adds.

Uber’s reluctance to recognise its drivers’ status as limb (b) workers in the UK exposes the hypocrisy of the well-worn argument that “regulations are too out of date” for tech platforms. 

And as pressure mounts on gig economy platforms from courts, competitors and customers alike, big question marks still hang around whether their “growth at all costs” model can be sustainable, and if Europe can come up with a different model.

Tim Smith is Sifted’s Iberia correspondent. He tweets from @timmpsmith



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