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COVID-19 highlights lack of social protections for gig economy workers

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9 April 2020

Poland: Gig economy workers hit hardest by COVID-19 crisis

Author: Dariusz Kalan, Balkan Insight, Reporting Democracy

"The music dies for Poland's gig economy workers", 8 April 2020

Polish musicians, artists and freelancers of all kinds struggle as the coronavirus crisis hits workers on 'junk' contracts...

[M]illions of employees [are] on contracts known in Polish as “smieciowki” — literary meaning “junk” or “trash” contracts  or other non-standard forms of employment. This includes all sorts of freelancers, artists, entrepreneurs and professional service providers...

Under an economic aid package passed by parliament on March 31, the self-employed and firms employing up to nine people can apply to have their healthcare and pension contributions scrapped for three months if they meet certain eligibility requirements, though they still have to pay income tax.

Some self-employed and some on “smieciowki” contracts can apply for a one-off handout of around 2,000 zloty (440 euros), which is 80 per cent of the living wage...

Some commentators say that if there is any silver lining to the crisis, it might be the opportunity to radically reform Poland’s labour market and do away with “junk” contracts entirely...

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9 April 2020

Uber says it paid $3 million to drivers & delivery workers in USA through its coronavirus sick pay program

Author: Tyler Sonnemaker, Business Insider (USA)

Uber says it has paid out $3 million to drivers and delivery workers in the US through its coronavirus sick pay program, 7 April 2020 

Uber has paid $3 million in coronavirus sick pay to US drivers and delivery workers, a spokeswoman told Business Insider.

But drivers have found it nearly impossible to qualify for financial assistance from the company and have said it's enforcing the policy inconsistently.

Even drivers who met Uber's criteria were only paid after Business Insider reported their stories.

The spokeswoman said Uber acknowledges it made mistakes rolling out the policy, but that it is reviewing cases that may have been incorrectly decided and that it continues to support drivers.

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9 April 2020

USA: Uber & Lyft drivers say they receive minimal support, putting lives at risk for low pay

Author: Aaron Holmes, Business Insider (USA)

More than 1,000 Uber and Lyft drivers told us they're putting their lives at risk to make just $2.50 an hour with meager support from the companies themselves, 8 April 2020

Rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft say their income has collapsed amid coronavirus, and support from the rideshare companies has been sparse.

Business Insider surveyed over 1,000 rideshare drivers and gig workers. Drivers who are still working said their weekly earnings have dropped by anywhere from 50% to 80% in the past month.

Many have stopped driving altogether due to safety concerns. Others are pivoting to delivery work, which they say has remained more profitable amid the quarantine.

Uber and Lyft have promised to give drivers disinfectant supplies, and Uber promised paid sick leave, but drivers say those benefits are unreliable and difficult to access.

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9 April 2020

USA: Uber drivers say company's inconsistent sick policy pushing them to keep working; includes company response

Author: Tyler Sonnemaker, Business Insider (USA)

'In order to make a living I must put myself and my community in danger': Uber drivers say the company's inconsistent sick pay policy is pushing them to keep working — even if they get sick, 7 April 2020

Uber drivers have told Business Insider the company's restrictive and inconsistent coronavirus sick pay policy is forcing them to choose between their health and their bank accounts...

By denying sick pay to those most at risk of spreading or developing serious infections from COVID-19, drivers say Uber is discouraging them from following public health guidelines even if they're sick.

An Uber spokeswoman told Business Insider the company made mistakes in rolling out the policy and that it's working to improve the policy and process for receiving compensation.

[includes company response] 

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24 March 2020

So. Africa: Research finds gig workers most vulnerable to infection & loss of income during the Covid-19 crisis

Author: Christi Nortier, Daily Maverick (South Africa)

‘SA gig workers may be vital, and yet vulnerable, during the pandemic’ 20 March 2020

Gig workers in South Africa are some of the most vulnerable to infection and loss of income during the Covid-19 pandemic. This precarity is nothing new, says a team of researchers who study the fairness of gig work around the world under the banner of the Fairwork Project.  The Fairwork Project has for the past two years done research into the fairness of gig work in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Fairwork’s researchers hail from the universities of Oxford, Cape Town, the Western Cape and Manchester.  They assess the fairness of gig work offered by digital labour platforms and give them a score. Their research focuses on labour-broking digital platforms such as Uber which connect gig workers with jobs. 

… Gig workers are already burdened with low pay, unsafe working conditions, disjointed management and few channels to organise and bargain as a collective in South Africa. Much of this depends entirely on the platform the workers are contracted to, according to the report… Based on their research, they argue that workers are more likely to be exposed to the virus because they interact with so many people on a daily basis when delivering food, driving customers or cleaning their homes. 

… In addition, gig workers don’t have access to unemployment benefits. This means they might work even when they fall ill because they do not get paid sick leave. This is exacerbated if they have to pay a monthly lease on equipment.  They too may need to stay home to care for children, the elderly or the sick. They have to choose between caring for their loved ones or getting an income. 

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Author: El Espectador

“¿Abuso en los precios? Bogotanos denuncian aumento exagerado en el costo de los alimentos”- 22 de marzo de 2020

 …Desde que se anunció el simulacro de aislamiento en Bogotá, los capitalinos se volcaron a los supermercados para abastecer sus hogares. La demanda sigue siendo alta y, al parecer, en algunos establecimientos se estarían elevando precios de los productos… Desde que se anunció el Simulacro Vital de aislamiento preventivo obligatorio en Bogotá, los ciudadanos se volcaron a las calles para abastecerse de productos alimenticios y de limpieza. Muchos supermercados y almacenes de cadena quedaron casi vacíos y con pocos suministros de alimentos básicos como arroz, leche, huevos y carne. Con el paso de los días estos establecimientos se han visto obligados a tomar medidas para contener la aglomeración de las personas y regular la cantidad de productos que venden por cliente…




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Author: BBC

“Coronavirus: qué hacen los grandes inversores de Wall Street para sacar ventajas de la crisis del covid-19” -18 de marzo de 2020-

 …Con Wall Street en caída libre, el precio del petróleo por los suelos, una posible recesión global y cada día más gobiernos cerrando fronteras o pidiéndoles a sus ciudadanos que se queden en la casa, el panorama económico parece desolador…Entre las acciones que más se han desplomado están las de aerolíneas, cruceros y todo el sector turístico, además de los títulos del sector energético…En medio de una guerra de precios petrolera, el barril de crudo cayó esta semana casi 10%, llegando a mínimos cercanos a US$20 para el petróleo WTI que se transa en EE.UU. y el Brent, que se utiliza como referencia para los mercados europeos…Entonces... si el petróleo está tan barato, ¿quién está comprando esas acciones?...Carl Icahn, el conocido inversor multimillonario estadounidense es uno de ellos. Al menos eso es lo que dijo en la prensa estadounidense, apuntando que ha comprado acciones de Occidental Petroleum…


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20 March 2020

USA: Ride-share drivers protest against Uber & Lyft for denying employee benefits during COVID-19 crisis

Author: Kari Paul, The Guardian

“Uber and Lyft drivers protest to demand more benefits during coronavirus crisis”, 19 March 2020

Rideshare drivers in San Francisco [protested]…on Thursday…in front of Uber’s headquarters, demanding the company provide them with more benefits as they continue to work through the coronavirus pandemic. The drivers are calling for the enforcement of AB5, a landmark California law that…reclassifies drivers from contractors to full-time employees entitled to benefits.

[Gig] giants Uber and Lyft have spent millions to resist the law, insisting that their drivers are not employees and refusing them the minimum three days of paid sick leave required by the state, unemployment benefits or disability insurance. “We are workers, we are entitled to our rights and safety,” he said. “We cannot work from home, our car is where we work.”

…81% of Uber and Lyft drivers in the US said they have seen a decrease in demand since coronavirus measures began to be enforced and 80% say earnings are down in the past week,…“We are getting starvation wages…”. [65%] of respondents to the Ride Share Guy survey said they have no other way to earn money than Uber or Lyft. “AB5 has to be enforced,…for our own economic stability, but for the health and wellbeing of our nation and communities”.

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16 March 2020

India: Unions call on Uber & Ola to provide safety kits to protect drivers against COVID-19

Author: Ajeet Mahale, The Hindu

"Ola, Uber must protect drivers amid air of mistrust, say unions", 15 March 2020

Unions of Ola and Uber drivers have demanded the companies to provide them with safety kits so that they don’t get infected with the novel coronavirus.

“Ola and Uber drivers are often the first ones to come in contact with passengers who may have coronavirus. The two companies should not expect drivers to reach their centres to receive the safety kits, but set up kiosks offering disinfectants, masks and hand sanitisers at major pick-up points such as airports,” said... national general secretary, Indian Federation of App Based Transport Workers....

[T]he app-based drivers’ union in Karnataka... said the companies should declare a 14-day paid sick leave for drivers as implemented in Australia and the U.S...

Spokespersons of Ola and Uber said they had set up a dedicated team to deal with the outbreak and drivers have been briefed on dos and don’ts to ensure their safety. “Our walk-in centres are equipped with a steady supply of health advisories, hand sanitisers and masks that can be picked up and used by the driver-partners,” an Ola spokesperson said.

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16 March 2020

UK: Union representing gig workers criticise 'paltry' offers of sick pay for delivery couriers affected by COVID-19

Author: Robert Booth, The Guardian

"Coronavirus: unions attack 'paltry' sick pay for self-isolating couriers", 16 March 2020

Unions representing gig workers have attacked “paltry” offers of sick pay for delivery couriers affected by coronavirus...

DPD... is offering [its 5,000] self-employed couriers who need to self-isolate the equivalent of statutory sick pay (£94.25 a week). It is well short of the approximately £550 its drivers with worker status are supposed to earn weekly. DPD has also said costs of renting equipment and vans will not be waived but deferred.

Hermes, which has around 15,000 self-employed parcel couriers, will only pay £20 a day to drivers if they need to self-isolate and only if they typically earn less than £90 a day.... [H]alf its workers will receive nothing and those who do will see payments capped at £280 because they are effectively limited to 14 days.

Deliveroo... says it will offer its 35,000 riders in excess of statutory sick pay (SSP), for up to two weeks of self-isolation if they have... contracted the virus, been placed in quarantine by a medical authority or chosen to self-isolate following medical advice. But it did not specify how much higher the payments would be...

GMB trade union said it was irresponsible that companies which use the gig economy model “put courier safety and public health at risk by creating disincentives to self-isolation”.

There are more than 1 million gig workers in Britain who typically have no rights to SSP and are only paid per job... Couriers are expected to be in high demand during the coming weeks as more people self-isolate and rely on deliveries...

The ride-hailing app Uber has taken a different approach. It said it will pay drivers based on their average earnings for 14 days if they need to go off sick...

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