First union’s recent report Gig Work in Aotearoa: Challenges and Options is one of the first to look into gig workers in Aotearoa, who they are, how they find the work, and what their pay and conditions are like.
The findings are alarming. More than half earn less than the minimum wage, do not get enough hours through gig work, and would prefer secure work. More than 40% do it on top of another job.
Most of the respondents were rideshare and food delivery drivers, for companies like Uber. They are misclassified as contractors, so denied the rights and entitlements the rest of us sometimes take for granted.
They miss out on holiday pay, sick leave, KiwiSaver contributions and more. They can’t join a union or collectively negotiate for better wages and conditions. They can’t challenge an unfair dismissal.
Gig work is not the cool ‘side hustle’ gig companies would have us believe. It’s being done by workers who are struggling to make ends meet, with families to support, and rent and bills to pay.
In New Zealand we have an expectation that everyone has access to fundamental rights at work. ‘Gig work’ is often short term and temporary, and is almost always through online apps for ridesharing, delivery driving, and online based work like software development.
This work is extremely precarious and those doing the work are not considered to be employees by those in charge of the business.
Many players in the gig economy exploit workers, by design. They deliberately sidestep employment standards in order to make more profit. Research shows that gig workers’ employment is precarious, and they are financially worse off than other workers.
FIRST Union and E tū have filed a case in the Employment Court on behalf of Uber drivers, seeking a determination that Uber drivers are employees rather than contractors.
The PSA also welcomes the Government’s response to its Technological change and the future of work inquiry, which confirms work will start on measuring the gig economy.
Digital tools that match workers with work can be great, provided they are underpinned by a commitment to fairness and respect. Working people have a right to organise collectively and this must be built into how work is organised in the gig economy.
Good and safe working conditions and decent pay for all working people is what will make our country thrive.