The gig economy has been growing each year around the world, including right here in Canada. The growth is a sign of the demand for convenience in our society. People want things brought to them and they want to be able to do it easily through an app or online.
People who are pro gig economy say that it offers a flexible option for workers who want to make their own hours and be their own boss.
But the truth is that this type of work has become dangerous for workers and the general public in a number of ways.
One of the biggest sections of the gig-economy has been services that involve driving. Uber, Skip the Dishes and Door Dash are just a few of the many companies that operate with drivers. Studies have shown that extreme competition, the pressure to drive in bad conditions and work more hours has made this type of work incredibly dangerous. Research found that 42 per cent of drivers in the gig economy had damaged their vehicle while on the job and 30 per cent admitted to running a red light while working.
These types of jobs have almost no protection for their employees. This means that they work without pensions, job security or workers compensation coverage. Many gig economy workers have said that they have received almost no safety training and if they have any safety concerns they aren’t sure how to communicate them to the company. Even if they do get in contact with the company, their worries are often ignored.
One of the biggest issues with services provided in the gig economy is that they’re largely ratings based, meaning the customer gives direct feedback on your performance that can affect your job. This can have a negative effect on workers who will take abuse and not speak out for fear of getting a lower rating. In this type of work a low rating means less work and less income.
The mental health of those working in the gig economy is a huge concern. Although flexibility is considered really good for mental health, the other aspects that are part of a gig economy make that flexibility irrelevant. Many workers work extremely long hours, alone and isolated in stressful situations. They have little control over their job and wage. This can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to mental well-being.
Unions have been fighting for workplace rights for decades and have now shifted the focus to the gig economy. Having a union means that you have a contract that guarantees a fair wage, stable hours and job protection. You have the confidence to do your job safely without fear of repercussions or pressure to put yourself in dangerous situations. With the rise of this type of gig work, we need unions now more than ever.