There’s a trend I find extremely bothersome lately, and I’m quite aware of how much I sound like the old fart I picture myself to be (and the “old” part is only there to indicate knowledge and imply competence where those lack, nothing else). New is better, old is bad. We’re creating trends because we can and because we think everything new is automatically better. Who looked at Uber and thought: hey, why aren’t the taxi drivers making a similar app and enforcing similar efficiency and quality rules? Is Uber bad? I think so. I think they’re riding this wave of approval while thinking “if we don’t get money from this, somebody else will”. And we buy it.
What if we leave Uber’s name out of the picture and describe the company as: a company who facilitates the link between part-time taxi drivers and customers, but one who forces drivers to adhere to strict rules of conduct (which is good) and price setting (which is good only for the customer), while denying their drivers benefits and other state-mandated social protections (which is very, very bad) because they call their drivers “not employees”? How does it sound? What if they’re only competitive because they avoid the law? Still think it’s the future of business? Oh, they force prices down, you say.. Good for them. You’re an idiot. Look at the big picture, not just from the customer side. If they can side-step the law, so does your employer. And believe me, they have the lawyers and the financial punch to pull it off.
I’m all for creating a marketplace of “gig jobs”, by all means, I want to be able to sell my free time if I find a need for more money. But this trend isn’t about part-time or income supplements, it’s marketing a precedent. It’s not a good trend by all accounts, it’s not satisfying a temporary need of jobs anymore because to do it, it slowly steals its way from those working normal hours. There simply isn’t much demand for taxis at 4am in smaller cities. Hell, most work occurs at certain hours, like clockwork, when people go to work and when they come home from work. What good is “on-demand economy” or “work when you want” if they don’t want you to work when you want? They want you to work when they want. It’s like leaving a full benefits 9 to 5 job to work freelance, only your customers call you from 9 to 5 and you have to pay everything, from health insurance to the electricity bill while competing with other fellows who do had the exact same idea you had. You don’t even think to team up because that’d be just like your former job and you don’t like restrictions. Good for you.
There is no limit to what customers ask – only to what workers can deliver. Making money from forcing captive workers to compete with other workers in order to increase your market share is immoral but making money because you’re denying them basic worker rights and thus being able to drive prices lower is what? How about saying they are not your employers but you can force them to work when you want for the price you say it’s fair (price, mind you, for their work). How about you can fire them whenever you feel like it – only you don’t say “fired” but instead “contract ended”. How about unfair competition with your … well… competition because they have to respect the laws that mandate workers to be compensated fairly for their work (including health benefits, insurance and so on..) – unfair because you avoid those benefits and compensations since you claim they’re not your employees? Well, you brought a gun to a knife fight, didn’t you? No wonder everybody is pissed but the customers.
Why is this allowed? Because the customers are vocal while the workers are afraid of losing their income. There is no personal judgement. Nobody is responsible for anything. So why then aren’t the rest of the corporations pushing for the end of worker benefits? Dude, they will. It’s what this trend leads to.
Mark my words, capitalism without rules is just as bad as socialism – there is a place where everybody wins right there in the middle, it’s capitalism with strong rules that prevent abuse but … you darned commies want to abolish those rules. Hell, it’s not enough we don’t follow them, you want them gone. Wait, that wasn’t even remotely close to the amount of contempt I have around. Companies want to make profits bigger. Customers want better service and lower prices. If the costs are sort of the constant and tech can save only some much money, who loses? Take a wild guess while I’m off to the pub for a pint of anesthetic.