The ‘gig economy’ is spreading throughout bankrupt British capitalism – time to advance to socialism


4.7 MILLION workers are now employed in the gig economy, twice as many as in 2016 with nearly one in 10 working age adults working via gig economy platforms at least once a week in jobs with no employment protection and where they can be ‘sacked’ at will by the employer or have their wages ‘sanctioned’ for any reason.

‘Platform work’ refers to jobs found through websites or apps using laptop, smartphones or any other internet-connected device.

The term covers gig companies like Uber, Deliveroo and Upwork and a whole range of jobs from taxi driving, deliveries, office work, design, software development, cleaning and household repairs.

The spread of the gig economy driven by these platforms is fast growing especially amongst younger workers. The research, backed by the TUC, revealed that nearly two-thirds of intensive platform workers – those who use it at least once a week – are aged between 16 and 34.

Nearly seven and a half million people have undertaken platform work at some time in their working life with a fifth of UK workers reported being notified digitally if work is waiting for them.

A quarter use apps or websites to report back on the work they have done. As the report notes:

‘Another important feature of platform work is the use of ratings by customers, enabling the quality of each worker’s work to be assessed. Such ratings can play an important role on some platforms in determining what earnings a platform worker can command. Some platforms drop workers whose ratings fall below a certain level.’

But the report makes clear that: ‘The use of customer ratings is not restricted to platform workers but is spread more broadly across the working age population. Indeed, almost a third of those who are not platform workers report having their work rated by customers or clients. Overall, half of the UK working age population report being rated in this way.’

Adding: ‘Once again, it is apparent that the practices of the “gig economy” are widespread across the UK labour market, and not restricted to platform workers.’

What is clear is that the gig economy is not confined to taxi and delivery drivers but is spreading like wildfire throughout UK economy, indeed throughout Europe as the report makes clear.

When he was the Tory health secretary, Jeremy Hunt announced his intention to create an Uber-style workforce in the NHS with flexible working dictated by phone apps.

While the Tories boast about having achieved high levels of employment, the reality is that millions of workers have been forced into taking on low-paid, insecure jobs where they are completely at the mercy of bosses who cynically designate them as self-employed ‘contractors’ in order to exploit them mercilessly to make profits for themselves and their shareholders.

This is the only future that a bankrupt British capitalist system has for the working class.

The response of the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, to this report was to say: ‘Government must get wages rising to make sure everyone has a secure job that pays the bills. And everyone working for an employer must get basic rights like the minimum wage and holiday pay.’

She refused to accept any responsibility of the trade union movement to fight for workers’ pay and rights, instead just making appeals to the Tories and the bosses.

The fact remains that a bankrupt capitalist system can no longer afford decent pay or employment rights for the working class. For the working class the only way forward is to put an end to capitalism for good.

The unions cannot rely on the goodwill of the Tories or the courts to defend the rights of workers, they must take independent action by demanding that O’Grady and all those who refuse to fight are removed and the TUC call a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and bring in a socialist planned economy where every worker will be guaranteed a secure job with decent pay.

This is the only way forward for the working class.