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Empower the Migrants, Empower the Gig-Workers – Bella Caledonia

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The Workers Observatory is working with migrant activist group Precaria on solidarity work in the city, drawing inspiration from Spanish organising traditions.

Edinburgh’s economy is awash with jobs based on insecure contracts and conditions, and they are often done by migrant workers. Precaria, a brilliant group supporting migrants in the city, offers welfare advice, mental health support, legal services, and above all tools and support for migrants to push back against precarious work and life that Scotland’s ‘Inspiring Capital’ has to offer.

Lessons from Spain for Gig Workers in Scotland

When the Workers Observatory met to talk about gig work and migrant work, and the obstacles to organising power at work, Precaria shared a wealth of insights from years of organising in Edinburgh. The meeting was also masterclass in some tools of Spanish union organising. In that culture, contracts are often not the end of the deal between workers and bosses. They are minimum conditions and standards, which workers are encouraged to improve through bargaining and negotiating. In the history of organising, precarious workers in Spain developed groups of trades or crafts, similar to what are called ‘guilds’, to set collective standards in cities and regions. More recently gig workers have been seeking to own their work, not working for profit-based companies but cooperatively.

What lessons can these provide in Scotland?

Empowering Migrants and Gig Workers

Gig workers in Edinburgh are often migrants, students, and marginalised workers who pass through the city and do not stay long enough to personally invest in building collective power. Meanwhile, unions are often not strong or popular enough for workers to get involved. Workers affected might find it easier to go to court, or name and shame bad bosses (like those who receive Precaria’s ‘poop award’).

But however unpredictable and insecure gig work is – and there are lots of illustrations of what it is like – workers are often not keen to eradicate kinds of work that do help guarantee a basic income level. The challenge is not to avoid this work, but to improve it, and that is where things get tricky.

One of the challenges of gig work, and other kinds of precarious work, is that interaction between workers is hard, often impossible. However tough conditions are, the wages are necessary. It is even tougher for gig workers who have ‘self-employment’ status (though that might change soon after a recent Supreme Court judgment).

What can gig workers do now to overcome these problems – the lack of interaction, the lack of employment status, and the transience of workers? Workers can always do more to develop and assert their culture, through sharing knowledge, making connections, and creating imagery around their own working identity. These are the elements of a culture change at work.

Parts of the change might happen organically, but the knowledge gap between bosses and workers – sometimes academics call it ‘information asymmetry’– is a deliberate gap, a precarious gap, a gap common to all. Bridging the gap requires resources to overcome it, and it can only be done together.

This also involves developing collectives for all workers doing particular kinds of work, not just those who work for apps like Deliveroo or Uber. Many couriers deliver goods other than food. Many work for companies other than Deliveroo and other apps. Many couriers, who work on secure contracts, have experiences and expertise that they could share with app-based workers. Likewise, many private cap drivers work for cooperatives, rather than Uber. And carers, whether they work for private or third-sector providers, have interests in common.

Establishing Guilds in Edinburgh?

If these groups can come together and assert their own demands for minimum standards for all couriers, cab drivers, and carers in the city, then a common identity can start to address the poor conditions of parts of the gig economy, overcome the problem that wages are driven down for all workers in the gig economy, and improve standards across the board. It will also be a way for locals and migrants to empower each other and build up solidarity, to overwhelm exploitative companies.

These are some of the initiatives that we are excited to take forward and to keep working on with Precaria and with any other groups or individual workers in Edinburgh. Behind the ‘guilds’ on our website are groups of workers developing these identities and demands, which will build on the leading work of Precaria, and the lessons they have shared from Spanish traditions, going forward.

Image credit: from workersobservatory.org

 

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UK – Deliveroo riders strike over pay, gig work conditions (Associated Press)

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08 April 2021

Riders for the meal delivery work services platform Deliveroo held a strike in London yesterday over pay and working conditions, part of a broader backlash against one of the UK’s biggest gig economy companies, reports the Associated Press. 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 debut that saw the company lose nearly 30% of their value. However, a number of institutional investors skipped the IPO, citing concerns about employment conditions for riders and a dual-class shareholder structure that gives founder Will Shu outsize control.

The company saw its business boom over the past year because of Covid-19 restrictions that powered demand for meal deliveries. Riders say they haven’t been sharing in the success because the company has been paying them less. Deliveroo and other gig companies in the UK that rely on flexible workforces are also facing looming regulatory challenges, after the Supreme Court recently 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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Winter Games gig tough job for French ice master

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Remy Boehler is just one step away from realizing his Olympic dream in China, as the French ice master has been invited to lead the Capital Gymnasium’s ice-making team in preparations for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

“Everything is good,” Boehler said before his team set the first ice surface transition underway during the “Experience Beijing” Ice Sports Testing Program running through April 10.

“Everybody has a lot of jobs for making good ice, and I think it’s a good point for preparing the Games,” added the 44-year-old, who said three years ago in PyeongChang 2018, his third Winter Games, that he’s quite willing to serve the next Olympics.

Like every previous Olympic Winter Games, the Beijing 2022 figure skating and short track speed skating competitions will be staged on the same rink in the 53-year-old Capital Gymnasium, which has been newly renovated.

From Boehler’s point of view, however, it’s not the same at all, since figure skaters need “softer” ice to better support jumps while short track speed skaters favor harder ice for increased speed.

To meet the requirement of both sports, Boehler and his team have to adjust the ice temperature from minus 3-4 degrees Celsius for figure skating to minus 6-7 degrees for short track.

“This is the only venue that has to switch between two sports in the middle of a day, which gives us huge stress during these testing events,” said Ding Dong, head of the Capital Gymnasium venue operation team, explaining why they arranged seven transitions in six testing days.

With the most recently updated Beijing 2022 schedule seeing both figure skating and short track events on one competition day, while the rest of the days have the two sports every other day, the challenges to the field of play transition are mounting.

“The transition involves many aspects around the rink, including the conversions of some temporary facilities, like the starting station and the protective pads. The photo positions will differ as well.

“But, ice is above every other thing. It’s also the most difficult part,” echoed Shen Ling, transition manager of the CG venue operation team.

As short track and figure skating won China the most gold medals at the Winter Games, the two sports have a solid fan base in the host country, possibly leading to a more complicated situation for Boehler’s team, seeing that the Capital Gymnasium will be often fully packed at Olympic time.

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New Chart Positions In Gig App Provider Ranking

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Unemployment claims are up one week, down the next in the topsy-turvy world after COVID-19. Where does that leave gig workers? In the driver’s seat, as this update to PYMNTS’ Provider Ranking of Gig Economy Apps tells us loud and clear.

Not only are there gigs, but it’s never been easier to pull up those postings on your smartphone and peruse them like a restaurant menu. Makes getting a gig a whole lot simpler. We’ve got a job, so get out the Ranking Machine for the Provider Ranking of Gig Economy Apps.

The Top Five

Our four top-ranked apps seem to have entrenched to some degree (although you never know).

Still at No. 1 is DoorDash, donating a million bucks to driver’s charities in April, followed as usual by Uber Driver at No. 2.

Instacart Shopper needs no assistance from customer service at its No. 3 spot — and for that matter, neither does the Fiverr freelance marketplace app, keeping busy at No. 4.

Now for a changeup to close out this section: Amazon Flex moves up one spot to enter the top 5 at No. 5.

The Top 10

At No. 6, we find the Upwork app down one chart position from last month, with self-explanatory app Freelancer also dropping one position to land at No. 7.

Rideshare legend Lyft likes preferred parking at No. 8, just where we left it last time.

Hare beats tortoise, as it were, as the TaskRabbit app jumps up a spot to No. 9, pushing the mighty Grubhub for Drivers to No. 10 and completing this edition of the Provider Ranking of Gig Economy Apps.

That’s what we call part of a full day’s work.

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NEW PYMNTS STUDY: OPEN BANKING 2021 

About The Study: Open banking-powered payment offerings have been available in some markets since 2018, but the pandemic drove many consumers to try these solutions for the first time — and there’s no going back. In the Open Banking Report, PYMNTS examines open banking’s rise as merchants and payment services providers worldwide tap into such options to offer secure, seamless account-to-account payments.



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