Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Peter Fleming writes that the promise of entrepreneurial self-employment has given way to the nightmare of systematic precarious work:
(T)he move to reclassify people as self-employed follows a very simple formula: it helps reduce labour costs and maximise profits for businesses that would rather use contractors than a permanent workforce. This includes Uber, Hermes, universities and many other organisations.

The business logic is rather brutal. If you’re self-employed then all the costs that a normal employer would cover must now be paid by you – including training, uniforms and vehicles, not to mention basic provisions for pensions and sick pay. This is the case even when a contractor works for the firm on a de facto permanent basis.
The problem is that successive governments have completely swallowed the “entrepreneurial society” propaganda that is spouted by neoliberal economists. As a result, the laws and regulations that protect the permanent workforce don’t apply here. Not even the minimum wage. Clearly this has been exploited by employers.
Perhaps the message cuts to the heart of the self-employment movement. It’s all about power. While some may end up on top, most workers find themselves perilously dependent on an employer, and with few rights or protections, not to mention less pay.

What can be done? Well, the airline pilots had the right idea. The only way to rebalance what is now a very unequal power relationship is to collectivise. Workers at Deliveroo and Uber have arrived at similar conclusions.

The so-called “gig economy” sounds glamorous and fun, like trendy graphic designers working from a laptop in a Shoreditch cafe. Sadly it’s turned out to be something of a bad gig for many struggling to make ends meet. The conflict between workers and capitalism hasn’t disappeared. It might have got even worse.
- Hina Alam reports on a new Forum poll showing widespread public support for a $15 minimum wage across Canada.

- Tom Parkin rightly pushes back again the claim that we should encourage pay-for-play health care due to the cost of ensuring that everybody has access. And Steven Hoffman makes the case for an increase in public health resources to prevent injuries and illness rather than merely reacting after they've materialized.

- Meanwhile, Laurie Monsebraaten highlights how many people would benefit from a public child care system based on their inability to afford daycare now.

- Abbas Rana discusses Bradley Birkenfeld's thus-far-rejected efforts to help Canada to recover billions in tax revenues from offshore accounts.

- Finally, Neil MacDonald writes that Canada is increasingly reliant on the war business - and the Trudeau Libs are putting large amounts of time and energy into furthering that niche.

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