|The News Line: Editorial
Saturday, 8 July 2017
Smash the zero-hours, agency worker ‘gig economy’ with a general strike to kick the Tories out!
ZERO-hours contracts, zero rights, zero future: this is the vision the Tories have for a ‘modern’ hire and fire workforce, where the Uber model is brought into every field of work.
The so called ‘Gig economy’ seeks to return to the days before there were trade unions, to the beginnings of the working class.
Four-and-a-half-million people in England and Wales are already in insecure work, Citizens Advice has revealed.
The plan was that Uber drivers were to be the modern equivalent of the servant-master relationship of feudal times, where the master would ring the bell and the servant would scurry to do his or her bidding, with the only difference being that in the modern version the bell was replaced by a mobile phone. However the working class is refusing to be driven back and Uber drivers are already getting organised and pushing forward.
Frank Field MP released a new report yesterday entitled ‘The Gig Economy’. Companies that promote the ‘Gig economy’ declare that workers are ‘self-employed’ and ‘free from constraint’.
The report shows that the only ones who are ‘free from constraint’ are the companies themselves. Companies free themselves of any obligation to pay their workforce a minimum wage, national insurance, pension contributions, and holiday and sick pay. In return, they grant ‘their workers’ no freedoms or benefits whatsoever.
The so-called ‘self-employed’ workers are by no means ‘free’. In many cases they are chained to the company, if they are sick for even a single day they have to pay a massive fine!
In the report a driver from Parcelforce revealed: ‘I have been fined over £400 for being too sick to get to work for just one day and once had to pay for a company employee’s overtime to come out on the route with me whilst I sat next to him with a bucket in case I was sick.’
Parcelforce is part of the Royal Mail Group. The company has 700 ‘owner drivers’ who are labelled ‘self-employed’.
They are nothing of the sort. Field says that drivers told him that the vans they own must be red, they have to wear a Parcelforce uniform, a Parcelforce name badge and they don’t set their own rates of pay. Field concludes that, in effect, they work for Parcelforce, not for themselves.
Drivers revealed that they don’t even earn the minimum wage and once their overheads are deducted they earn the equivalent of less then £2.50 an hour.
The GMB union won an employment tribunal which ruled against Uber and in favour of the workforce.
The tribunal ruled that Uber workers must no longer be considered ‘self employed’ but as working directly for Uber. The results of this tribunal have been completely ignored by Uber.
Deliveroo workers have organised themselves into the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain and are in a serious struggle to be recognised as employees of Deliveroo.
The ‘Uber model’ has not been confined to ‘self employed’ taxi drivers and food deliverers. It has been pushed into other areas of work.
Trained supply teachers are being elbowed out of the way and replaced by untrained, unqualified agency ‘teachers’. The school rings the agency when they are short staffed and a so-called ‘teacher’ turns up to take the class. The only qualifications that this agency ‘teacher’ is required to have is GCSE maths and English.
There is now even a service of Uber style doctors, called ‘GP Delivered Quick’! The patient via the internet calls up for a private doctor who turns up at your door for up to £150 for a 25 minute consultation and £150 for a weekend appointment.
The University and College Union (UCU) released a report that showed that over half of colleges and universities used zero-hours contracts with lecturers not knowing whether they have a job from one week to another.
The unions, to their shame, have allowed this situation to happen. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) must be made to place itself firmly at the head of this fight, welcome new unions like the Deliveroo drivers IWGB and the Uber Drivers Union and immediately affiliate them to the TUC.
The TUC must be forced to call a general strike to bring down the Tories who are sponsoring the Uber economy. All ‘independent contractors’ must be recognised as workers with basic trade union rights. This will mean bringing down the Tories and bringing in a workers government that will expropriate the bosses to show that there will be no return to the conditions that UK workers suffered in the early days of capitalism.
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