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Precarious couriers are leading the struggle against platform capitalism

Deliveroo, Foodora, Giovo. The success of these companies depends on the exploitation of an invisible precariat. Now, against all expectations these workers are mobilizing across borders to claim their rights.

A strike by Deliveroo workers London in the summer of 2016 was the first sign that food delivery platform workers were capable of mass collective action. The strike spread from Deliveroo to UberEats, and then around the UK. A year on, that struggle has spread transnationally. Food delivery platform workers have now been on strike in over ten cities across the UK, Italy, France, Spain and Germany.

Their struggles have both won victories and faced serious setbacks, but the fact remains that a transnational movement of precarious labour has emerged from what appeared to be the most unlikely of circumstances. Workers who were supposed to be weak and powerless have spread their antagonism with capital across borders in militant, unmediated action. This transnational circulation of struggle provides an example of how the changing composition of the working class can provide new opportunities, even as it demolishes old certainties.

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Alternative Models of Ownership

British Labour has a hard look at changing ownership models in this report:

REPORT TO THE SHADOW CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER AND SHADOW SECRETARY OF STATE FOR BUSINESS, ENERGY AND INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY

ONE:
Why alternative ownership models are needed
TWO:
Increased automation in the economy
THREE:
Different models of alternative ownership
a) Cooperatives
b) Municipal and locally-led ownership
c) National ownership

The economic system in Britain, in its current guise, has a number of fundamental structural flaws that undermine economic strength and societal well-being. The predominance of private property ownership has led to a lack of long-term investment and declining rates of productivity, undermined democracy, left regions of the country economically forgotten, and contributed to increasing levels inequality and financial insecurity. Alternative forms of ownership can fundamentally address these problems.

These issues are all the more pronounced given the increasing levels of automation in our economy. Automation has an emancipatory potential for the country’s population, but the liberating possibilities of automation can only be realised – and the threats of increased unemployment and domination of capital over labour only countered – through new models of collective ownership that ensure that the prospective benefits of automation are widely shared and democratically governed.

Further discussion here

German Minimum Wage – Not Just The Money

The statutory minimum wage has significantly improved job quality and work satisfaction of low-paid employees in Germany.   note that hourly as well as gross wages increased after its introduction despite a drop in working time. Although jobs of minimum wage employees have become more demanding, workers have also reported a more motivational management style, an improved atmosphere among colleagues, and a better work-life-balance. Raising the lowest wages appears to have led firms to increase the workload on the one hand, and to focus on motivating employees on the other.

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Changes in job quality and happiness of minimum wage workers in comparison to the control group.

Happier, more motivated, more productive

Our results indicate that firms reacted to the introduction of the minimum wage in Germany by compressing work on the one hand, and improving the at-work atmosphere on the other. This made it possible to upgrade low-paid jobs through re-organization and to better utilize human potential. Employees appear to have appreciated their jobs becoming more demanding while their work conditions improved.

An assessment of minimum wages thus needs to look beyond the macroeconomic employment effects. At company and individual level our findings point to higher job quality and increased happiness as a result of raising the lowest wages.

What Recovery? The Case for Continued Expansionary Policy at the Fed

Today’s dominant story, told by the Federal Reserve, the media, and many prominent economists, is that the economy has recovered from the recession and is growing about as fast as it can without overheating. This outlook has led the Fed to increase interest rates four times since December 2015, ending the historically low rates it maintained for nearly a decade. As evidence that the economy is at potential—i.e. is utilizing all productive labor, capital, and resources—many cite the unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. This is the lowest it has been since 2001, and it’s expected to continue falling, although inflation remains below the Fed’s 2 percent target.

However, Roosevelt Fellow J. W. Mason, among others, questions the premise that we have achieved full employment and GDP is currently at potential. In this report, we show that output in 2016 remains well below pre-recession expectations. Low demand and reduced investment, he argues, have kept labor and capital on the sidelines. To achieve the kind of high pressure economy that promotes investment, raises wages, and increases work force participation, the Fed should pursue much more expansionary policy.

Dispelling Creative Myths On Lower Employment Protection

The new ETUI book Myths of employment deregulation does just this, with a focus on nine EU member states. The book shows that deregulation was not a significant factor affecting employment levels, and that it was in fact accompanied by increases, rather than cuts, in the numbers of workers in insecure forms of employment.

by

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The experiences of the nine chosen countries show that other factors were far more important than job protection reforms for employment levels. However, lowering protection for workers has exacerbated the shift towards non-standard forms of employment.

This takes different forms depending on the country (as shown in Figure 3) but, more importantly, the growth in precarious employment has been particularly acute in countries where permanent workers have some of the lowest levels of protection. This is the opposite of what the reforms promised to achieve.

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It’s time to regulate the gig economy

Technology is used to monitor workers doing platform-based work. It can also be used to regulate work and protect workers.

Janine Berg and Valerio De Stefano

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“But how to regulate? To begin with, the technology that has allowed parcelling and distributing work to ‘the crowd’ can also be used to regulate the work and provide protection to workers. Technology can monitor when workers are working, when they are searching for work, and when they are taking breaks. For example, Upwork, the on-line freelance marketplace, offers its clients the option of paying by the hour, as it can monitor the workers by recording their keyboard strokes and mouseclicks and taking random screen shots. Uber expects drivers to always have the app on, which can track drivers’ whereabouts including their downtime.

This same technology can thus also be used to ensure that workers earn at least the minimum wage or ideally to regulate the wage agreed collectively by the workers and the platform. If labour protections are put in place, then platforms will have the incentive to re-organise work to limit search time. Technology and better organisational design can help to minimise search time, improving efficiency for all. The technology can also be used to facilitate payment of social security contributions.”

 

For more on this see What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?

How economists and politicians gave up on employment in favour of alchemy

There will be no true economic recovery – or growth – until world leaders stop confusing government finances with that of a household budget,  writes economist, Dr Steven Hail.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has promised a ‘return to surplus’. So has Theresa May. Though America’s President Donald Trump has no such concerns one way or the other, President Obama repeatedly characterised a budget surplus as something to aspire to. They are completely wrong to do so.

A surplus means a government collects more in taxes more than it spends – taking more from us in tax than it gives us in its spending, and weakening our bank balances. The aspiration for surplus is the reason so few Australians, Americans or Brits have had a real pay-rise in 15 years. It is the reason that public services have been cut, inequality has taken off and private debt has increased. It is the justification for austerity, in all its forms.

They are wrong to think a budget surplus is necessary. They are wrong to think a surplus is consistent with sustainable economic growth. They are wrong in nearly everything they ever say about government finances and how these are linked to current and future prosperity.