It’s the online worker platform that has been described as ‘insidious’ by the highest ranks of the union movement in NSW. Airtasker, where you are actively encouraged to outbid your fellow worker in a race to the bottom for casual and temporary work, sits at the forefront of what is being hailed as the ‘gig economy’.
In this brave new world of online deregulation and job decentralisation, little government oversight is being applied to these websites. Young workers are at particular risk as a consequence of unscrupulous hiring arrangements, attracted to fast money and a surplus of mostly unskilled labour positions.
Likewise, a large and growing base of applicants makes it tempting for formal and informal employers to take advantage of workers, impacting traditional employment markets and wage earning capacity.
As teachers, you should be aware that the gig economy will be most attractive to students who lack previous work experience. Compared to 30 years ago, more than three times as many young people are now stuck in part time work today. Given this reality, students need to be taught how to approach and handle these platforms, understand their entitlements and learn their protections.
Collectively, we need to stand together as unionists to ensure workers and their family’s rights are safeguarded as more industries fragment and go down this path. These online platforms should only succeed when they are in sync with the worker, with unions and through upholding community values and expectations. Right now, most are only in sync with their profit statements.