It seems that every day these days is incredibly turbulent. Every day a new sector is on the point of striking, people are struggling to survive, many are missing out on the support they need, Covid is back, human rights everywhere are under attack and the possibility of endless war and climate disaster lurks. Yesterday evening I was called to do an interview about changes to the death by dangerous driving legislation – to make it more equivalent to manslaughter. By the morning that was cancelled because there was too much other news. The sense is that everything is falling apart. No wonder people just want to crawl inside a Netflix series and disappear.
But we need to go on somehow. Most of the work-related news is about possible strike action and, of course, pay. One report out over the weekend was interesting. From the think tank Autonomy
, it spoke about the low rate of pay for gig-based platform work. The report said around 95% of UK microworkers earn below minimum wage
for the work, with almost two in three earning less than £4 an hour.
In the past I have investigated work on these platforms while trying to find something flexible to supplement my earnings. I have always been shocked by quite how low the pay is. Virtually nothing for 1,000 words of writing as if you can just conjure this out of think air and waffle. The result is no doubt a lot of cut and paste jobs.
Journalism has its own long-standing problems with its financial model which have led to the rise of clickbait, listicles [pointless list-based articles that you could write from the top of your head] and the like to feed social media. Yet good journalism is so very necessary at this current time.
Gig working has spread across the economy in the last few years. The obvious examples are things like Uber, where legal action is being taken on the grounds of employment status, but there are so many other less well known sectors which use gig workers and that number is set to grow, with corporates using, for instance, ex-employees to do temporary jobs such as audits. Maybe this will push up standards and raise awareness, but without action across the economy I wouldn’t bet on it.
What the Autonomy report shows is the need for urgent action to extend the rights of those working in the gig economy to ensure some sort of basic standards. That need was apparent years ago, but little progress has been made. Matthew Taylor’s report on modern working – which formed the basis of much of the shelved Employment Bill – spent a lot of time on it.
In the absence of an Employment Bill, we now have a much narrower review of the future of work, which seems more of an attempt to counter criticism about the shelving of the Bill than anything else. Let’s see what it offers. Gig-based working can offer a work lifeline to workers who need that kind of flexibility for whatever reason, but it cannot be at the expense of basic rights to fair pay.