Is the gig economy 'exploitative'?

'Big bosses are the only rockstars of the gig economy'

Is the gig economy 'exploitative'?

The Real Work Real Jobs campaign is expanding its focus to include ‘gig economy’ workers like Uber drivers and dependent contractors, with the public release of the FIRST Union’s submission on the Government’s Better Protections for Contractors discussion document.

Thousands of New Zealand workers are engaged in ‘gig economy’ work, much of which flies under the radar of the Government and unions.

According to the Union, these workers are often misclassified as independent contractors, so that companies can limit their responsibilities and obligations as employers under the law. Even minimum wage legislation does not apply to contractors.

FIRST Union spokesperson Anita Rosentreter, said that in the submission, they are telling the Government “loud and clear” that they need to put an end to the legal loopholes that allow for the exploitation of app-based or ‘platform’ workers.

FIRST Union’s submission to the Government expands on two central recommendations for future legislation:

  1. Make sure gig workers who should actually be employees are not wrongly engaged as contractors, therefore being denied rights and protections under employment law, like the minimum wage, holiday pay, KiwiSaver contributions, union membership and collective bargaining.
  2. Empower genuine contractors in the gig economy to improve their working conditions, for example through collective bargaining, so they are not forced to lower their own wages in order to compete.

“The ‘gig economy’ may sound like a brave new world, but employers are often using the same old dirty tricks to keep wages low and workers on edge,” said Rosentreter.

“Big bosses are the only rockstars of the ‘gig economy’, and so-called ‘disruption’ is often just doublespeak used to justify skirting laws that were designed to protect workers.”

Research by the New Zealand Rideshare Drivers Network in July 2018 revealed 76% of Uber drivers in New Zealand received less than the minimum wage after their work expenses were factored in, which can include their own car, petrol, insurance and maintenance.

“The aim of our Real Work Real Jobs campaign is to turn insecure work into secure work, and we are employing a range of tactics in our fight for this, including lobbying the Government to develop fit-for-purpose legislation to address the fundamental flaws with contracting in this country,” said Rosentreter.

“Too many workers, like Uber and other app-based drivers, are missing out on basic rights because they have been misclassified as independent contractors. And without the right to collectively bargain through their union, there is little they can do to improve their lot themselves.”

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