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Uber Technologies : California’s gig worker battle reveals the abuses of precarious work in Canada too

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Adam D.K. King, Post-Doctoral Visitor, Department of Politics, York University, Canada

Much of the focus during and after election night in the United States has centred on Donald Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and the makeup of Congress.

Yet Nov. 3 also saw many states vote directly on specific policies. For progressives, the results of these contests were mixed.

Voters in some states opted to decriminalize drug, and Floridians voted to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour. However, in California, several ballot initiatives resulted in significant defeats for the left.

Chief among them was Proposition 22, which passed with 55.8 per cent of the vote.

This new law allows technology companies such as Uber and Lyft to continue to classify their gig workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The back story

A coalition of Silicon Valley companies launched the “Yes on 22” ballot campaign in response to recent moves by both the judiciary and legislature in California to expand the legal definition of employment.

In the Dynamex case of 2018, the California Supreme Court clarified the legal test for determining an employment relationship. This test limited when an employer can classify a worker as an independent contractor to instances where:

The worker is free to perform services without the control or direction of the company;

The worker is performing tasks outside the company’s usual activities; and

The worker is engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business.

It was certain app-based companies could not meet these criteria.

The legislature then passed Assembly Bill 5 in January 2020, which included the above method for determining employment status and aimed to stop what is broadly considered to be the misclassification of app-based workers as independent contractors.

The state’s new broader interpretation of employment was meant to give app-based and other contract workers access to labour standards protections, such as the minimum wage, as well as other social benefits currently denied to them, such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation. However, the legislation did not grant gig workers the ability to form unions.

The Proposition 22 campaign

“Yes on 22” proved to be the most well-funded ballot initiative in California’s history. Tech companies spent well over US$200 million on advertising, political contributions and public relations firms’ services. The coalition opposed to Proposition 22, led by labour movement organizations, came nowhere near this total, managing to raise around $20 million.

Since 2018, tech companies had been publicly voicing their objections to the Dynamex decision and California’s Assembly Bill 5, with some threatening to leave California if Proposition 22 was unsuccessful. During the “Yes on 22” campaign, gig companies additionally engaged in highly questionable tactics, such as requiring both drivers and customers to indicate support for the ballot initiative before using the app.

So while Assembly Bill 5 is the law of the land for other employers, Proposition 22 exempts the tech giants by setting separate labour standards for app-based workers.

Consequences for tech workers

The companies argue that Proposition 22 will benefit workers by maintaining the supposed flexibility of app-based work while also providing new, modest benefits.

For example, Proposition 22 includes a provision ensuring workers receive 120 per cent of the state minimum wage in California. However, this calculation is only made on the basis of engaged driving time. Because much of gig work is spent waiting for jobs through the app, income insecurity will remain a considerable problem.

Scholars at University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center, estimate that under this arrangement ride share workers will earn an average of $5.64 per hour when time between rides and vehicle costs are factored in.

Other benefits included in Proposition 22 dealing with health care, workers compensation and insurance are all much weaker than the protections guaranteed by traditional employment.

Battles over app-based work in Canada

Conflicts over the employment status of app-based workers are not unique to California.

After its Ontario couriers voted to unionize with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Foodora appealed the union certification and argued that couriers are independent contracts not entitled to unionize.

The company then pulled out of Ontario altogether after the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled in the union’s favour.

Before this decision, Foodora left Australia after that country’s Fair Work Ombudsman alleged that the company was misclassifying and underpaying its drivers.

Uber also faces mounting pressure in Canada following a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision allowing workers in Ontario to pursue a possible class-action lawsuit to obtain protections such as a minimum wage, vacation and overtime pay, as well as other benefits entitled to them under the Employment Standards Act.

At the federal level, the Liberal government has amended the Canada Labour Code to include a “reverse onus clause” requiring federally regulated employers to prove that contractors they engage are properly classified.

Perhaps learning from outcomes in these other jurisdictions, the drafters of Proposition 22 included within the new law a rule requiring seven-eighths of the California legislature to vote in favour of any future modification. The victors of the California ballot initiative have now indicated their plan to pursue similar measures across the United States.

What’s driving the growth in app-based work?

Clearly app-based companies are committed to maintaining the “independent contractor” status of their workforce. This is largely because their business model involves competing on the basis of low labour costs achieved through skirting regulations that apply to competitors, such as traditional taxi companies.

Another University of California, Berkeley, Labor Center study estimates that between 2014 and 2019, Uber and Lyft alone avoided paying as much as $413 million in unpaid wages, overtime pay, unemployment insurance contributions and other taxes in the U.S.

However, some contend that there are much deeper forces at play. Economic historian Aaron Benanav argues that as manufacturing employment has declined and the service sector has grown, under-employment and precarious work have become endemic features of contemporary labour markets.

According to this theory, stubbornly slow growth rates, low productivity growth and depressed demand for labour are translating into a lack of good quality jobs.

Battles over employment classification and labour regulation, while important for improving app-based workers’ immediate conditions of work, ultimately won’t address the underlying dynamics contributing to the growth of gig work and other forms of precarious employment.

More fundamental reforms are needed to generate secure, well-compensated employment. Investment and job creation led by the public sector will be vital to addressing these issues in the future.

Adam D.K. King does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

https://theconversation.com/californias-gig-worker-battle-reveals-the-abuses-of-precarious-work-in-canada-too-149780

© 2020 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved., source Canadian Press DataFile

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LeVar Burton: ‘Jeopardy!’ host gig began ‘scary,’ ended fun – New York Daily News

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Labor-For-Hire Company Struggling to Find Gig Workers Despite Hiking Wages

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  • Laborjack said it can’t find enough gig workers to meet soaring demand for its services.
  • The Colorado-based company boosted staff wages but said there’s huge competition for labor.
  • Clients are so desperate for labor that they’re no longer price-sensitive, its founders added.

A labor-for-hire company in Fort Collins, Colorado, says it’s missing out on huge chunks of revenue because it can’t find enough workers to take more jobs on.

Blake Craig and Josh Moser, founders of Laborjack, told Insider that more people had been applying to work at the company during 2021, but that it still wasn’t enough to meet the massive growth in demand for its services.

“Good help is hard to find,” Craig said. “And it’s even harder right now.”

Read more: These 9 food tech startups are capitalizing on the labor crunch with tools that help franchisees hire or automate the restaurant workforce

Laborjack staff doing landscaping work

Laborjack’s staff are mainly college students who do gig jobs in landscaping, moving, and general staffing.

Laborjack


Laborjack hires out labor to help with moving, landscaping, and general staffing — often to individuals who need extra help with projects.

“But right now, the bulk of our business is focused on helping other businesses that can’t get the staffing that they need,” Craig said. This includes delivery, brewing, and construction companies.

Around 80% of its workers are college students or recent graduates. But some of them have full-time jobs and use their gig work at Laborjack to supplement their income. During the pandemic, they’ve been working more hours at their main jobs and don’t need the side income anymore, Craig said.

In June, just over 200 workers completed a shift on Laborjack’s platform – but nearly a fifth of these only did one job.

This US is currently in the midst of a huge labor shortage that’s causing some businesses to cut operating hours, slash production, and raise prices. Joblist CEO Kevin Harrington told Insider that it’s primarily driven by people in entry-level, hourly-paid, and customer-facing jobs.

“Hiring had never been an issue for us until about February of this year,” Laborjack’s Craig said. “There’s a lot of other people going after the same talent that we are – not only new workers but also our existing workforce.”

“There are a lot of people fishing in a small pond,” he added.

The demand for Laborjack’s services roughly tripled over the past year, while the number of job applicants has increased by just a quarter, Craig said.

“We’re still struggling to keep up with the demand that’s coming in for the service we offer,” Moser said. 

This is despite Laborjack rolling out its biggest set of worker perks yet. This includes increasingly average payouts, made up of wages and on-job bonuses, to just over $26 an hour. The company is dishing out $75 hiring and referral bonuses if a new hire completes five jobs, too.

Businesses are ‘on the verge of desperation’

Laborjack has made its services more expensive to cover the higher wages. Moser said its clients had changed their pricing tolerance “drastically” over the past three months and were no longer price-sensitive.

“They just need to get people in the doors because otherwise their business will collapse,” Moser said. “They’re on the verge of desperation.”

Moser said that, for example, the event and trade show industry had rebounded massively with the reopening of the US economy. “They’re chomping at the bit for any amount of workers we can get them.”

Laborjack founders Blake Craig, Josh Moser

Laborjack’s founders say the tight labor market is holding them back.

Laborjack


Laborjack’s June revenue is up around 90% year-over-year, but “we could be growing more if there was more labor on the market,” Moser said. Laborjack is turning down jobs worth up to $2,500 each day and is struggling to balance its B2B and consumer sides, which are “both in full swing,” Moser said.

“Our margin has decreased despite the fact that we’re increasing prices, just because we’re trying to pay out all these bonuses,” Craig added.

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Van Oord wins Baltic Eagle foundations and array cable gig – reNews

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Iberdrola has awarded Van Oord a contract for the transportation and installation of monopile foundations and array cables at the 476MW Baltic Eagle offshore wind farm off Germany.

The deals were first revealed in the subscriber-only newsletter reNEWS.

Van Oord will deploy its 8000-tonne heavy lift installation vessel Svanen to install the 50 foundations.

Offshore works for the Baltic Eagle project will start in 2023.

Van Oord’s cable laying vessel Nexus and trencher Dig-It will be deployed for the array cable laying.

Iberdrola country manager for Germany Iris Stempfle said: “Iberdrola is one of the leading developers contributing to the energy transition by investing in offshore wind projects around the globe – in Germany, our Baltic Hub will have an installed capacity of 826MW by the end of 2024.

“Tapping into the expertise of Van Oord yet again makes us confident that Baltic Eagle offshore wind farm will be delivered as planned.”

Van Oord Offshore Wind managing director Arnoud Kuis said: “We are very pleased to be working with Iberdrola again, this time on the Baltic Eagle project in the German Baltic Sea.

“Combining the installation of foundations and the supply and laying of cables will ensure efficient project execution.”

Baltic Eagle is scheduled to be fully operational by the end of 2024.

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