New kind of poorly paid hell

Edited FoodPanda logo with angry eyes and a hand balled up in a fist as a counter-narrative to the company’s initial logo (‘mogok’ stands for ‘strike’ in Malay)

In this week’s We’ve Had Enough of Greedy Employers Who Overwork and Underpay People, and in today’s extension of how much you should care, as Malaysian FoodPanda riders are on work strike in protest against the new payment scheme — on rethinking the impact of automation and surveillance on workers:

Before hailing the wonders of automation, let’s first consider the well-being of those farm workers who put food on our table. Are their voices included in the conversation? What will be the impact on them and their families? And how do we ensure that innovation and change also lead to labour protections that lift the standards for all workers?

On the impacts of the digitalisation of day labour as gig work, as a new kind of poorly paid hell:

Troublingly, the people most likely impacted by this unprotected, precarious physical labour (that can be secured without an in-person interview) are those on the margins of the workforce: men and women of colour who are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system; probationers, parolees, and others who may have work orders and are thus forced to work against the threat of incarceration; and immigrants without documented status. This reality makes digitalised day labour that much more exploitative and in need of close regulation. But with mandatory arbitration clauses, class action waivers and membership in an association that likely does not represent their interests, workers have very little means to resist or push back against abusive practices.

It was good news in California, as a bill was approved for app-based companies to finally treat workers as employees, rather than contractors, which makes them eligible for many job benefits and incentives. The bill will affect at least a million workers — including ride-hailing drivers, food delivery couriers, construction workers, janitors, etc. — who had been on the receiving end of a decades-long trend of outsourcing and franchising work. It’s about time we exemplified California’s Assembly Bill 5 to recognise workers’ rights of all kinds and implement fair labour practices.

For more on ride-hailing apps, worker classifications, and algorithmic management, read Alex Rosenblat’s book Uberland.

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