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Movie review: Gig economy satire doesn’t quite click | Entertainment

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A worker’s stolen credentials might be the key to taking on a giant conglomerate in Noah Hutton’s debut feature film.

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In Lapsis, the debut feature from Noah Hutton, a quantum computing boom has revolutionized the stock market and a new industry – cabling – is built around expanding and maintaining the quantum network.

In need of money to pay for his half-brother’s medical treatment, Ray (Dean Imperial) becomes a cabler for a weekend using stolen credentials.

As Ray chooses high-paying jobs and looks forward to life-changing amounts of money, he’s also swept into a movement among cablers to unionize. What’s more, his stolen credentials supposedly belonged to a formerly influential cabler, meaning that they might just be the key to that movement.

Cabling serves as an entertaining satire of the gig economy. The cablers compete for jobs against each other and are paid bounties that encourage them to work at the expense of their own health.

The eight cable companies – humorously and ominously all owned by one conglomerate – don’t hide that they’d prefer to automate cabling..

In terms of world-building, Lapsis excels, but elsewhere, there’s nothing special about the movie.

Imperial and co-star Madeline Wise are great as Ray and fellow cabler Anna, but their characters aren’t particularly exciting. Even the plot, emphasizing the topical message of unionization within the gig economy, is decent, but never quite hits the mark. 
Lapsis takes longer than it should to set the plot in motion and moves much too quickly once it does. The movie builds to a strike that Ray and Anna plan, but once this happens, the results are never shown nor indicated.

Instead the movie just ends, with no indication whether the workers will now unionize or be stricken down by the cruel hand of a union-buster. 
Another recent union movie, Sorry to Bother You, ended in a similarly vague matter. However, in Sorry, several subplots had satisfying conclusions, which resulted in the final open ending ringing less hollow.

Lapsis is available through virtual cinemas (see filmmovement.com).

5/10

Jeff Bulmer is a local movie buff and UBC Okanagan masters student who hosts movie-themed podcasts on Heatwave radio. He has written frequently for UBCO’s The Phoenix and The Daily Courier.

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NSW gig economy guide ‘penned by Uber’

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New guidelines from the NSW government aimed at improving safety in the gig economy may as well have been penned by Uber and ignore the compounding pressures leading to dangerous conditions for delivery riders, the Transport Workers Union says.

The NSW government established a taskforce to improve the safety of gig economy workers following the deaths of five delivery riders in the space of two months late last year. The Joint Taskforce on food delivery rider safety is led by SafeWork NSW and Transport for NSW, and is expected to unveil its final guidelines this week.

The guidelines were discussed and given the green light at the taskforce’s final roundtable, held in Sydney on Thursday.

But no delivery riders were present at this roundtable after the Transport Workers Union after its members quit the taskforce last week, labelling it “farcical” and criticising it for not taking stronger action.

At a press conference held below the roundtable meeting, TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the taskforce’s final recommendations will do nothing to address the dangerous issues for delivery riders, including low rates of pay and scheduling pressure created by algorithms.

“This is not an action plan, it is an inaction plan. This guidelines process has failed to deal with the deadly pressures that are killing riders on our roads. It has left those deadly pressures untouched, unacknowledged and unregulated,” Mr Kaine said.

“It looks as though these guidelines have been penned by Uber or Deliveroo themselves. This government has caved into the pressure from these massive companies and accepted hook, line and sinker their version of how they want the world to look.”

NSW taskforce guidelines miss the point: Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine

Steve, a Deliveroo delivery rider, had taken part in the taskforce’s roundtable, but said he had also chosen to withdraw from it.

“I just feel it’s pointless to stay on with how it’s going about it at the moment,” Steve told the media.

“Reasonable pay is all we’re asking for, so it doesn’t compel us to rush from one place to the other. There is a clear link from our income stream to our health and safety. The problem with this taskforce is they’re ignoring it because they just want to talk about health and safety.

“But you have to link it with the core issues of why it’s happening. We need state government interventions, we need some kind of regulation in this economy otherwise there’ll be more deaths.”

Esteban, who is also a delivery rider, was recently injured after falling off his bike on light rail tracks in the rain while rushing to complete a job.

“I just don’t want this happening anymore,” he said. “Safety in this occupation is very critical and it’s something that’s not being taken into account properly. Fellow riders have died, most of them immigrants.

“I put myself in their shoes, and I imagine what will happen with me and my family if I come to this country with a lot of dreams and suddenly I just died because of a lack of safety in my job. It’s very disappointing.”

The launch of the taskforce came with renewed hope that action would be taken to protect delivery riders, but this has now been “extinguished”, Mr Kaine said.

“That’s what the NSW government is going to announce in the coming days, that it is extinguishing hope that things will get better for riders in the gig economy,” he said.

“We were told absolutely that the government would take no regulatory steps to improve conditions for riders, it would take no steps to ensure that responsibility was placed on these behemoths and would not listen and not take into account or acknowledge the key pressures that exist that are creating these problems.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email or Signal.

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Deliveroo share price rise shows investors aren’t bothered about gig economy workers | Comment & Opinion

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Deliveroo rider Subway

It’s understandable some Deliveroo riders opted to go on strike this week. While CEO Will Shu and early investors have made hundreds of millions (despite the IPO flop), a damning report last month found many are paid less than the minimum wage; only a handful qualified for the maximum £10,000 bonus; and none got employee share options either as, despite their blue Roo uniforms, and in some cases years of service, it’s just a gig. 

Trouble is, the striking riders not only have no worker rights: they have no power. Courier work promises some pay instead of none, and it seems there are many more ‘scabs’ willing to keep gigging among the 50,000 riders than the few hundreds reportedly on strike. With a low barrier to entry – a pedal bike – there’s also an easy pipeline among the 693,000 fewer Brits on a payroll since February 2020 as its recruitment of 25,000 extra riders last year proved. And some riders like the gig, and fear changes would mean less flexibility to work when they want.

True, concerns about the fate of Deliveroo’s gig economy workers led City fund managers, including Legal & General and Aviva, not to invest (albeit more likely concerned due to the potential impact on their investment than on ethical grounds).

But this week, as retail shares in Deliveroo started trading, the share price went up, despite the strikes – albeit fractionally – indicating everyday investors aren’t bothered.

Perhaps real change will come when Deliveroo’s supermarket and fast food chain partners start getting tarred with the exploitation brush. A few big names pulling out of the platform would surely bring some change.

Or perhaps some of Deliveroo’s rivals can make more of the rights they afford their riders. Just Eat CEO Peter Duffy said recently that the gig model had led to the worst working conditions “in a hundred years”.

But the most likely agent of change is the courts. We’ve seen Uber lose its legal fight. If a rider strike won’t harm Deliveroo, losing its gig workers would be much more damaging to its business model. And you never know, Chancellor Rishi Sunak may also impose a digital delivery tax. That would nuke it.

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JobMaker scheme fails youth as super accounts drained and JobKeeper bypassed gig economy

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​Prime Minister Scott Morrison has enthused about there now being “more jobs in the Australian economy than there were before the pandemic”.

But that’s true only for those 25 and older: 77,600 more are employed than before the crisis. For those aged 24 and under, 74,100 fewer have jobs.

While the flawed design of Jobkeeper hit young people particularly hard, the one program the Coalition announced to specifically tackle youth unemployment, the JobMaker Hiring Credit, has so far proven a failure. It has led to just 609 hires as Treasury officials revealed late last month.

JobMaker offers employers a weekly $200 subsidy to hire job seekers aged 16 to 35, and was expected to create 450,000 jobs over two years.

The pandemic clearly hit younger workers the hardest. Of the more than 870,000 Australians who lost their jobs in the first few months of the Covid-19 crisis, 332,200 – or 38% – were young Australians aged 15-24.

By June 2020, as the overall unemployment rate hit 7.4%, the youth unemployment rate spiked to 16.4%, with a further 19.7% underemployed.

The reasons young people were hit so hard are pretty clear. Young people are more likely to work in casual jobs – the first to be cut in hard economic times – and more likely to work in sectors most affected by border closures, lockdowns and other measures – retail, hospitality, tourism.

Flawed design of JobKeeper

Moreover, the flawed design of the federal government’s key support measure, the $100 billion JobKeeper program, exacerbated the negative effect on young people.

To qualify for Jobkeeper, employees had to have been working for their employer for a minimum of 12 months. This disproportionately excluded younger workers, who are more likely to be recent entrants to the workforce, more likely than older workers to switch jobs and more likely to be employed in casual or other insecure work.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures from August 2019 show that while young people comprised 17% of the workforce they accounted for 46% of all short-term casual employees.

And of those young people employed casually, 26.4% of had been with their employer for less than 12 months, compared to 6.5% of those aged 25 and over. So one in four young people employed casually were not eligible for JobKeeper, compared with just one in 16 of their older counterparts.

JobKeeper’s design therefore pushed proportionally more younger workers on to the unemployment queue and likely contributed to more of them dipping into their superannuation – a policy that will cost them up to $100,000 over their lifetime.

Young Australians told to be resilient as COVID-19 wipes out jobs and housing hopes

The federal government introduced provisions early on in the pandemic to allow Australians affected by the economic crisis to withdraw up to $20,000 from their superannuation accounts (in two rounds of $10,000 each – one last financial year, another this financial year).

According to estimates by financial comparison site Canstar, the long-term cost of a 25-year-old withdrawing $20,000 from their superannuation is more than $100,000, compared with about $37,000 for a 50-year-old.

Superannuation accounts drained

Industry Super Australia has estimated that about 395,000 people under 35 completely drained their super accounts.

All unemployment is costly for individuals, families and the community. But high and long-term youth unemployment can have particularly dire consequences that reverberate for decades. It creates the risk of “scarring”, suppressing an individual’s job and income prospects over their entire life.

Youth unemployment was already a significant issue prior to the Covid crisis. Now, with younger people hit hardest by the pandemic’s economic impacts, it’s imperative to ensure an entire generation is not permanently disadvantaged.

Cuts to JobSeeker, Jobkeeper: out of the frying pan and into the fire

This is an edited version of an article first published in The Conversation.
is a Lecturer and Program Manager, Social Science (Psychology), School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, at RMIT University.
is a Lecturer, Bachelor of Youth Work and Youth Studies at RMIT University

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