Richard McCready : Need to deal with Gig Economy

15 November 2017

Recently I was asked about my views on companies like Deliveroo operating in Dundee.

I am happy to hear about businesses doing well in Dundee, but I am also clear that we need to make sure that people have a good quality job.

In my view a good quality job includes things like a good rate of pay and I agree with the report of Dundee Fairnesss Commission which wanted Dundee to be a Living Wage city.

People also need to have a clear expectation of what hours they are going to work and their income from week to week.

The ambition of the city is to a be a Living Wage employer: that’s what the Fairness Commission said and we should be looking to give people reliable and sustainable income.

I know a lot of people do like the flexibility of what is known as ‘the gig economy’ but there are people doing these jobs because they have no other alternative.

It’s good to see business doing well and coming into the city but we need to make sure the dignity of workers is always recognised.

I was recently at the Co-operative Party conference where Jeremy Corbyn spoke about the need to embrace these new digital platform.

Jeremy Corbyn said at the Co-operative Party Conference,

'The top-down model of organisation, whether in politics, the media or in business, is being challenged and is breaking down.

The technology of the digital age should be empowering workers, enabling us to co-operate on a scale not possible before and yet too often it has enabled a more rapacious and exploitative form of capitalism to emerge.

Look at Uber, Deliveroo, and others. The platforms these companies use are the technologies of the future. But, too often, their business models depend not on technological advantage, but on establishing an effective monopoly in their market and using it to drive wages and conditions through the floor.

Governments have to make sure that regulation keeps pace with changing technologies.

But sensible regulation of working conditions would not only improve the lot of existing workers – and yes, despite what some firms try to claim, they are workers – it would mean that new businesses could survive in the market.

Digital platforms are opening up huge opportunities for horizontal, more democratic, forms of organisation to flourish.

Imagine an Uber run co-operatively by their drivers, collectively controlling their futures, agreeing their own pay and conditions, with profits shared or re-invested. The next Labour Government, working with you, can make that a reality.

The biggest obstacle to this is not technological but ourselves.

We must have the confidence and organisational skill to make it happen.

That’s why we commissioned our report on Alternative Models of Ownership.

To start asking fundamental questions about who should own our economy in the digital age, and how to ensure that it’s enormous potential benefits serve the many, not the few.

Its authors recommend that co-operatives be supported by government through access to finance, through legal changes to level the playing field for cooperatives in the market, and through a better government procurement policy, so that public money is being used to support companies that serve the public good.

To prevent just the few benefiting from the “rise of the robots” the report suggests we consider higher minimum wages, a shorter working week, profit sharing schemes, or putting the ownership and control of the robots in the hands of those who work with them and come to rely on them.

We don’t have all the answers yet but are thinking radically about how we can shape the next thirty years to use the power of new technology to make our economy work for the many not the few.'

We need to ensure that the economy is run democratically and ensure that every worker is treated fairly and with dignity.

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