Gig platforms treated workers unfairly during pandemic, study says


Gig economy platforms like Uber, Deliveroo, Bolt and Glovo failed to compensate workers enough for lost income during the coronavirus pandemic and many companies still dont offer sick pay despite increased risks of infection, a new study shows.

While many platforms touted lost-income compensation schemes, the study by the Oxford Internet Institutes Fairwork program showed that these were actually only available for a small percentage of workers, who in turn faced much tougher competition for jobs.

And although more than half of platforms now provide some form of sick pay, these schemes often consist of flat-rate payments that in practice fall below the minimum wage and in many cases have proven difficult to access.

Across the board, the study funded by the German government found that despite changes in the relationship between platforms and workers — namely the introduction of sick pay — platforms still will not change contracts or engage with trade unions.

“Covid has changed the discourse around the gig economy completely. Now it is very difficult to claim they are independent workers,” said Funda Ustek-Spilda, the studys co-author. As debate around gig worker protections has heated up among regulators during the pandemic, platforms have pushed for a so-called third way, which gives workers some protections but keeps them as independent contractors.

As furlough schemes come to an end and unemployment rises, platforms are becoming an increasingly attractive way for workers to earn some extra cash.

Most platforms offered protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, to their workers. Sixty percent of platforms, such as Bolt, Wolt and Deliveroo, also opted for “contact-free services.”

However, these deliveries were only contactless for customers, the study notes, and couriers have a hard time avoiding contact with restaurant workers when they are picking up deliveries or refusing cash payments.

“There are so many complaints from workers saying that the policies were really difficult to access, that they were simply not worth it. [Workers] would go pick up a mask, but they would need to drive halfway across the city,” said Ustek-Spilda.

A spokesperson for Uber said the company “distributed millions of safety products to drivers, including masks, gloves and sanitising spray, and directly reimbursed drivers if they sourced these items themselves.” However, Ustek-Spilda said it is impossible to check if platforms are really keeping their promises.

Work hard, earn less

As furlough schemes come to an end and unemployment rises, platforms are becoming an increasingly attractive way for workers to earn some extra cash.

Ustek-Spilda said they had seen a rise in people joining platforms, but this in turn led to fiercer competition for gigs and workers having to spend longer to earn what they used to.

“What we have seen from workers, what they want is pay-related. Their incomes have fallen despite their hours having gone up. Platforms should be offering more, fairer policies for the allocation of pay,” Ustek-Spilda said.

The study found very few examples of platforms compensating workers for pandemic-related loss of income, while less than 1 percent of platforms increased workers pay during the pandemic. Most of these schemes were rolled out by large multinational companies, such as Uber, Amazon and Glovo.

“[Platforms] interpret wash your hands less in terms of the virus and more in terms of their responsibilities to their workers; throwing that responsibility onto government for financial support and onto individual workers for their own protection from coronavirus,” the authors wrote.

The study also found that many platforms, such as Bolt, had end dates to their financial assistance and sick pay schemes, despite there being no end in sight for the Read More – Source