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The challenges of being a gig worker during the pandemic

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Gig workers’ day-to-day lives are fundamentally different from people with traditional employment in organizations who enjoy more predictable wages, supportive managers and steady relationships

This article, written by Erin Reid, McMaster University; Brianna Barker Caza, University of North Carolina – Greensboro; Steve Granger, University of Calgary, and Susan Ashford, University of Michigan, originally appeared on The Conversation and has been republished here with permission:

The gig economy, once associated mainly with musicians and artists, is stretching into more and more areas of the workforce. With the advent of tech platforms such as Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit, many of us have come to rely on gig workers to take us places, rent us rooms or take care of small tasks. Both the number and the type of workers employed in the gig economy has grown.

Yet these are only the most visible segments of the gig labour market. A number of specialist platforms focused on knowledge economy services have emerged, such as Kolabtree, which connects users to independent scientists, and Eden McCallum, a company which serves clients with teams of independent management consultants.

Gig workers’ day-to-day lives are fundamentally different from people with traditional employment in organizations who enjoy more predictable wages, supportive managers and steady relationships. As scholars of work, psychology and organizations, we have focused our recent research on the challenges these workers face and the personal resources they can draw upon to deal with them.

6 challenges of being a gig worker

Drawing on our own research and studies by other researchers, we identified six key challenges for these workers that are rooted in the structure of gig work itself:

• Remaining financially viable without a predictable salary.

• Organizing the logistics of work without the support of the administrative infrastructure (e.g., accounting, marketing).

• Crafting a clear work identity without the roles and communities that anchor identities in organizations.

• Navigating an uncertain career path and forecasting one’s future work without the more predictable career options offered by companies and industries.

• Coping with the heightened emotional turbulence occasioned by highs and lows of working independently.

• Maintaining work relationships without a clear and stable set of regular colleagues.

We developed The Gig Work Challenges Inventory (GWCI) to measure these challenges. We developed and validated 18 questions through a series of surveys conducted with many different types of gig workers including rideshare drivers, freelance editors, creative workers, consultants, designers and online digital piece-workers.

Our ongoing research is devoted to understanding what makes these challenges more or less salient to workers, as well as how they can cope with them. Our measure captures the experiences of workers around the world, including a global sample of scientists.

Different experiences

Gig workers are not all alike and their experiences of these challenges are not all the same. They have different skills, do different kinds of work and find their gigs in different ways. Our studies suggest that these differences importantly shaped workers’ experiences of the six core challenges of gig work in the following ways:

• Professional status matters: Comparing professionals (e.g. editors, consultants) to non-professionals (e.g. delivery drivers), we find that non-professionals report generally higher levels of all six challenges than do the professionals.

• Income matters: Not surprisingly, a gig worker’s income impacts their experience of challenges — lower income gig workers report higher levels of all six challenges than do higher income workers.

• How gig workers find work matters: Workers who find their gigs through platforms like Upwork tended to report greater emotional and career path challenges than did those who found their work through other means, such as through their existing social networks.

Resources for coping

A document showing an inventory of gig work challenges
The survey tool used to capture challenges faced by gig workers. (Reid, Caza, Granger and Ashford), Author provided

Gig workers’ experiences of these challenges have shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Surveys that we conducted with a sample of independent scientists before and during the pandemic reveal how this global disruption reduced the number of available work opportunities and amplified workers’ difficulties with fluctuating emotions, organizing day-to-day work and maintaining relationships.

However, our data also suggest some psychosocial resources that may help gig workers cope with layers of work and non-work challenges. Specifically, when gig workers felt that their work was meaningful and that they had emotional support in their social networks going into the pandemic, they reported higher levels of psychological resilience and well-being, and less loneliness, during the pandemic.

These results show how doing work that is meaningful and having strong relationships can help buffer the challenges of gig work, even as they become amplified during a pandemic.

We anticipate that our work will be useful to gig workers, organizers, practitioners, managers and scholars. We encourage workers themselves to use the inventory to evaluate their own work lives and consider where they need to invest in building resources to sustain themselves.

Third-party platforms such as Kolabtree and Upwork as well as freelancer unions and other organizations might use this measure as a basis for creating supportive services and programs for their workers.

Last, we hope that researchers can use this inventory to continue to better understand gig workers’ lived experiences and generate new insights about the implications of this increasingly prominent way of working.The Conversation

Erin Reid, Associate professor, Human Resources & Management, McMaster University; Brianna Barker Caza, Associate Professor of Management, University of North Carolina – Greensboro; Steve Granger, PhD Candidate, University of Calgary, and Susan Ashford, Michael and Susan Jandernoa Professor of Management and Organizations, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Gig workers in Karnataka too can expect weekly offs, other benefits- The New Indian Express

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Express News Service

BENGALURU: Gig workers with e-commerce platforms can hope for better days with various benefits. With the Union Government proposing to revise the definition of employment to include new types of workforce, the Labour Department in the state is planning to conduct a survey of workers in the unorganised sector, including drivers enlisted with mobile app-based cab platforms, delivery agents and food delivery agents, to ensure that they get benefits like weekly offs and minimum wages.

The Centre is expected to include new forms of workforce, including gig and platform workers, and anganwadi workers, in a new set of reforms under the proposed National Employment Policy that seeks to ensure a fair deal to the workers. Under this policy, these workers will be eligible for minimum wages, weekly offs and other leaves and also other worker-related benefits like Provident Fund and ESI facility. Presently, gig workers, including food delivery agents and mobile-app based drivers, are not employees of the company — they are paid per delivery or trip and they have to bear the cost of fuel.

Speaking to The New Indian Express, State Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar said, “Though the Centre is yet to finalise the policy, Karnataka will go ahead and conduct a district-wise survey of mobile-based taxi/autorickshaw drivers, delivery agents and also food delivery agents. We can provide facilities to beneficiaries only if we have proper data on them.”

Hebbar said he will discuss the matter with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and other officials concerned and a final decision will be taken after the October 30 bypolls. Meanwhile, over 7 lakh people from Karnataka have registered on the e-SHRAM portal for unorganised workers that was launched last month. Hebbar informed the Assembly in the recent session that there are over 1.6 crore unorganised workers in Karnataka. 

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Why Do Gig Workers Want You To Delete Instacart?

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Robin Pape is a gig worker and Founding Member of the Gig Workers Collective. Errol Schweizer led the Grocery team at Whole Foods Market for 9 years, including during 2015 when the retailer was an early adapter of Instacart.

Errol Schweizer: What’s it like to be a gig worker?

Robin Pape: There’s a lot of uncertainty involved with being a gig worker. You never really know what you’re gonna make, how much you’re going to work. You generally don’t have health care. And there’s no sick pay, no paid time off. There’s just a lot of uncertainty. 

Errol: How is it different than being a regular employee?

Robin: Well, as a gig worker, we’re classified as independent contractors. And we at the Gig Workers Collective believe that that’s an intentional misclassification and that it’s done to specifically skirt the labor laws. So you know, if we worked for the company as a direct employee, we would have access to health insurance and sick pay and paid time off, and they would be paying into our taxes and towards social security. We would be using their vehicles instead of our own. So that there’s a lot of differences in how we’re treated. 

Errol: What’s the issue with the business model? 

Robin: So usually, the pay with these good companies starts out pretty well. And then as time goes on, it’s unsustainable. And it drops and there’s changes to how the pay models work. Initially, they’ll usually start with a very clear and concrete pay model, and then switch to something that’s more of a black-box, an algorithm where we can’t really compute what exactly it is that we’re being paid for, what’s mileage, just the simple base pay for an order. The company makes money by charging extra money to the customers. And in addition to that, they’ll pay service delivery fees to the company.

So getting into these gigs, it can feel initially like you’re making good money, because you haven’t been educated about all of the costs and the expenses involved. But at the end of the day, you’re lucky to break even.

Errol: How have you seen gig work change during COVID-19? What’s it been like?

Robin: There’s been a huge increase in the number of people who are using delivery services. I think that’s tapering off a bit now that people are feeling more comfortable and more people are vaccinated and getting back into the stores themselves. So while there was this huge boom in customer base, Instacart, in particular, cut our base pay, And they hired twice as many shoppers, and they sent us inadequate PPE, the shelves were empty, customers were upset about this, it was taken out on shoppers, it was out of our control. People were frustrated. It went from shopping usually one, maybe two orders at a time to most often shopping three orders at a time, and having to communicate with three different people, while you’re in the middle of a pandemic, and everything is taking so much longer as you’re going back and forth, back and forth, fulfilling requests for three people who aren’t going to get everything that they want. And you know, there were limits. You could only have two bags of frozen vegetables. And, one case of water and people weren’t happy about it.

But people were proud of what they were doing. They weren’t ashamed to say that they worked for Instacart or one of the other gigs, there was some pride. And all of these people were going somewhere that no one else wanted to go, that people were afraid to go. 

But overall, in general, we’ve seen pay cuts from 30 to 50%. And a lot of it is out of our control, a lot of it doesn’t have to be this way. And the things that we’re asking for right now are things that we’ve had in the past that were taken from us so that the company could be more profitable. 

Right now they want to paint this glowing picture, and they either want to sell the company or announce an IPO. And we’re hoping that it’s a lot harder to do that when investors understand just how poorly this company cares for its employees, for its independent contractors. 

Errol: What are the five demands that the Gig Workers Collective has around reforming Instacart and other similar apps?

Robin: All of our demands are things that we we’ve either had, or have been told we have, but it hasn’t really been made clear.

So the first demand that we have is that they return to paying by the order instead of by the batch. So people think of as a batch as one order, but it can actually be one order, or two or three full service orders where you shop and deliver. And in some areas, including mine, it can be as many as five delivery orders. Right now, the minimum pay for a delivery order is $5.00. But if they put five of them together in one batch, there’s still only guaranteeing $5.00. And that’s not a base pay. That’s a minimum pay. So that can include the mileage, that can include heavy order pay.

So that that’s the first one is that they pay us by the order. That’s the easiest way to make sure that we’re paid fairly and at least a minimum wage. The second demand is that they reintroduce item commission; this was removed in late 2018. We used to receive a base pay for an order plus item commission. So you could pretty easily figure out what you’re going to get paid for an order by looking at the number of items in it. In 2018, they change that to a black-box algorithm. At one point they took away the ability for customers to tip. We had to fight to get that back, you know, they stole our tips. They used our tips to subsidize pay, they had to apologize publicly and pay us back tips. So there have been all sorts of issues with tips and pay and commission. So in addition to having batches only contain one order, or if more than one order, have them be fairly priced. we would like them to reintroduce item commission. 

We’d also like them to stop punishing shoppers for issues that are out of their control. So this could look like a lot of different things during COVID-19. We were having, you know a lot of markdowns because things weren’t available in the store, or because people wanted three of something and the limit was one. So there were issues there with things not being delivered on time, and shoppers would be penalized for that. And then, you know, the thing that’s most out of our control is that not all customers are honest. We like to think that most of them are. So all these things together can really have an impact on ratings. Instacart keeps track of the last hundred orders that you shop. So the way that it is right now if you have a perfect five star rating, you get to see the best orders that they’re offering. When I had a 4.98 I was seeing the best offers. I shopped a few orders and didn’t get any ratings. So some of my five stars fell off which gave weight to the four star I have. And that brought me down to a 4.97 and I didn’t see any good orders. Now it could take weeks for somebody to get their ratings back up where it needs to be and it’s really unfair to the independent contractors. 

The fourth demand is that we’re looking for a clear occupational death benefit. The contract says that they may pay death benefits. Just like they said that they may pay for COVID. And it’s still not really clear what they mean by that they may pay occupational death benefits. We’d like them to be guaranteed, We’d like them to be accessible. We’d like to know how they’re accessible, and we’d like them to be comparable to properly classified employees. 

And then the final demand is that they return the default tip to 10%. Currently, it’s 5%. So if a customer tips 10%, or 20%, the next time they go into order, the default tip should be set to that higher percent. And Instacart removed it at one point and replaced it with a service fee that didn’t go to the shoppers but went to Instacart. We had to fight to get them to reinstate it. But when they did, they reinstated it at 5% instead of 10%. The other 5% remains a service fee for Instacart. In some areas that 5% is closer to 8%. And then in other markets for delivery orders that service fee is as much as 15%. And that’s on top of the item markups. You know, when the default tip is set to 5%, people tend to think that that’s the fair amount, the customary amount to tip for this kind of a service. 

All jobs deserve a living wage. If you can’t afford to pay the people who make it happen for you a living wage, then you don’t deserve to be in business.

Right now we’re getting the short end of the stick while Instacart makes money and it’s money that should be in our pockets right now. We’ll just keep getting louder and louder because we’ve got nothing to lose.

Errol: So how can folks support you? 

Robin: So we successfully registered to be a nonprofit. We have a website, it’s Gig Workers Collective.org. You can donate there, you can provide your information to get connected with us and be more aware of what we’re doing and how we’re organizing. You know, we’ve done a boycott, and we’ve done a protest, and we’ve done a walk off, we’ve asked customers to delete the app. We’re not just going to go away until things get better. So delete Instacart, do the curbside pickup, and tip when you can.

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Google Fiber’s 2-Gig footprint expands

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Google Fiber’s speediest offering, a service that delivers 2Gbit/s downstream and 1Gbit/s in the upstream, has reached San Antonio, where the ISP duels with AT&T, Charter Communications and Grande Communications.

Google Fiber announced plans to build networks and offer gigabit services in San Antonio back in August 2015.  
(Image source: Google Fiber)

Google Fiber announced plans to build networks and offer gigabit services in San Antonio back in August 2015.

(Image source: Google Fiber)





Google Fiber said “many parts” of the company’s service area in San Antonio now have access to the uncapped 2-Gig service, as execs announced in this blog post. Google Fiber, they added, is working on technical requirements to make the speedy offering available in some parts of San Antonio that were part of the early fiber network build there.


2022 a big build year in San Antonio



Google Fiber said it expects 2022 to be its biggest build year yet since it started constructing its network in San Antonio. Google Fiber announced San Antonio as a deployment city in August 2015.


Currently, residents in parts of the west, east, north and northwest sides of San Antonio can sign up for Google Fiber service, with construction crews now at work filling in areas on the northeast, northwest and inner westside of the city.


“Once we’ve completed these portions, we’ll continue building out across the city including communities on the south and west sides,” the company added. “This year, working closely with our local government partners, we’ve picked up the pace of our construction efforts significantly.”


The San Antonio launch expands the list of Google Fiber cities that offer the 2-Gig service for $100 per month, joining Atlanta; Austin; Charlotte and The Triangle, North Carolina; Huntsville, Alabama; Kansas City (Missouri and Kansas); Nashville, Tennessee; Orange County, California; Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah.


Google Fiber’s 2-Gig service will also be offered in West Des Moines, Iowa, where the company is grappling with Mediacom Communications. The company announced last month that it had begun to place fiber in the city’s conduit network.


Google Fiber limits speeds to 1-Gig up and down in its Webpass markets, delivering fixed wireless service to parts of Chicago; Denver; Miami; Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco, California; and Seattle.


Google Fiber introduced the 2-Gig service in September 2020, with initial tests with customers in Nashville and Huntsville.


Related posts:


— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading


A version of this story first appeared on Broadband World News.





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