back to article Fancy that – the sharing economy lobby doesn't speak for the sharers

Perhaps it's time to retire the term "sharing economy" once and for all. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) this week swallowed up the "gig economy" trade group Sharing Economy UK. "Sharing economy" was initially used to describe individuals trading under-utilised private assets or labour informally, on a peer-to-peer …

Anonymous Coward

Trouble down at t'mill

Those who choose not to learn history are condemned to repeat it.

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Meh

Target for Downsizing?

Perhaps the CBI could be downsized, as per the British 'Industry' they so obviously no longer represent.

Troughers.

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Good post. Got me thinking

If only there were a way for workers to... link up so they could bargain their labour for a wage they and their dependents could live off of.

Okay, their bosses would have to live without the subsidies provided by the Government to top up the inadequate wages they currently pay, but it could just be a way forward.

After all, it's not as if the workers could be deported to Australia for daring to band together. The Aussies won't take in criminals anymore.

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Re: Good post. Got me thinking

Good idea, although who do you bargain with exactly? You can't exactly blockade the assets of these companies for leverage can you - well I suppose you could set fire to your spare room or chain yourself to your car bumper :)

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Re: Good post. Got me thinking

Congratulations, you just re-invented the trade union.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good post. Got me thinking

@murphy

Although they have a good line in following the British example (and Russian and...) in exporting criminals though

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Anonymous Coward

Have you noticed, how it is those who don't actually do any work that promote the "gig" or "sharing" economy?

They are quite happy to make money from the labour of others, but not so happy to adequately emburse those who actually do the work and generate the wealth.

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Ogi
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> They are quite happy to make money from the labour of others, but not so happy to adequately emburse those who actually do the work and generate the wealth.

A previous boss of mine once told me quite honestly (when I asked for a raise) that the company "pays the employees one pound over the threshold where people would just resign".

It is a fact of life that a company/client/whatever will pay the minimum they can get away with. It is your job (as provider/employee) to demand as much as you can.

The company will give you a price for your labour which it thinks is what the labour is worth. If you think your labour is worth more, you are free to entertain offers from others. Otherwise you take the best offer you can get. That way the market sets the price of your labour. Whether it is "fair" or not doesn't really play into it.

In my case, at that point in time, I was unable to get a better offer for my skills (and didn't get the raise), no matter whether I found the wage unfair for the skills I was providing. So I put in the effort to upskill and left the job a year or so later for more pay.

It did teach me however to take a very mercenary approach to work. Your client/company is not your friend, or your family (despite this rather modern desire to make me feel like they are. I find it a bit creepy tbh).

They will not hesitate to get rid of you when you are no longer of any use to them. Loyalty is for chumps in their eyes. So now I do the same, if I get a better offer from someone else, I will go for it.

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The word you're looking for is "parasite"

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LDS
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That's why they're aiming at destroying the competition and create a monopoly. Then you'll have no other place to go, and they're free to fix the pay as low as they like.

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A previous boss of mine once told me quite honestly (when I asked for a raise) that the company "pays the employees one pound over the threshold where people would just resign".

My threshold's just gone up by a pound.

And again.

And again.

....

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Ogi
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> Then you'll have no other place to go, and they're free to fix the pay as low as they like.

I believe in those situations collusions/pricefixing/market failure, people tended to band together into Unions, and collectively deny their labour to the company until an agreement is reached.

Although not sure how that would work in the era of automation. The minimum wage hikes in the USA seems to have resulted in more people being laid off and replaced with automated machines (e.g. fast food servers replaced by computerised "order kiosks", checkout staff replaced by "self-serve" checkouts).

If automation becomes an actual like for like replacement for unskilled/semi-skilled labour (minus the initial capital cost), then unionising and collective bargaining will not work as intended. Then the capitalists (Those that own the capital, i.e. assets) are pretty much in total control.

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Ogi
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On a related note. I actually did some reading on the "Luddites". Despite being portrayed as uneducated numpties that smashed machines because they were against technical progress, it turns out they had some legitimate grievances.

The machines were owned by a few wealthy men, who reaped most of the rewards from mechanisation of the cotton industry. Before, people worked in cottage industries, they were their own boss, worked on their own time, and had a good work life balance. The skills earned would result in a decent income for them, and could be passed down the generations. They themselves were not against progress, having (and developing themselves) quite a few machines to improve their productivity and increase production.

However when rich men got wind of these machines, they had the money to pay specialists (e.g. clockmakers) to build even more advanced and fancy versions, on a much grander scale. As a result the machines became too expensive for normal people to afford, and many could not compete.

These people then became wage slaves. No longer able to work and take breaks when they wanted, the people were shunted into long gruelling days and nights of shift work, where their injury (or even their death) was not a concern to the owners. The wages were so small that many had to move out of the countryside farms/cottages and live in factory provided slum houses that were disease and filth ridden.

The price of one machine was far beyond what they could afford, so only those with money could buy them, and then make even more money on the backs of others.

It was due to this that the Luddites revolted, not some anti-technology bent. They were reduced and dehumanised to nothing more than meat cogs in a machine. Indeed it was due to this revolt and the rumblings of further violence that the government actually stepped in and started defining things like safe working practices, employee rights, a minimum wage and other things we now take for granted.

Looking at this modern "sharing economy", and automation, I can't help but see some repeating patterns. if we manage to develop robots who are a direct replacement for humans, most of which will again be owned by rich corporations, we reduce most of humanity to being zero hours "temp workers" struggling to make ends meet, it will cause some serious upheaval.

The upheaval will be delayed as long as we have the state to provide welfare (if nothing else than a soft cot and three squares a day), but I don't think having masses of people basically living off the state in slums and a few very wealthy people/corporations owning and running everything else will function as a long term societal structure.

Even in the times of kings and peasants, the elites had to protect themselves. Those castles you see, were as much to protect the royal family (and their supporters) from their subjects as it was to protect against foreign invaders. Despite this in the end it still wasn't sustainable (hence the revolutions in France and Imperial Russia, and the reformation of other monarchies into modern day states).

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Ogi
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> My threshold's just gone up by a pound.

> And again.

> And again.

Alas, that only works if everyone else who can do that job does the same :-) .

Otherwise they will just replace you with another cog willing to work for cheaper and carry on.

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Family?

If they can convince you to think they are your family, you won't feel that strange compulsion to go home anymore...after all, its a family right there at work! You wouldn't mind putting in extra time and weekends for your family.

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If I'm going to use self-service, I expect to get paid for my labor...or at least have the product discounted accordingly.

I can remember as a kid, seeing gas stations that had one set of pumps, nearer the building itself, marked with one price-per-gallon, while the other set, marked self service, with a lower price per gallon. That made sense, even to a kid. If you opt for full service, pay full price. If you opt to expend the effort to do the tasks yourself, you should pay less for the product..and have the option, if you so choose, to pay full price for actual service.

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Indeed, as a (related) aside the Pentrich rising,arguably the last "revolution" in the UK, celebrates its bicentenary in June this year

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That's why they're aiming at destroying the competition and create a monopoly.

Ah - using the Walmart model then? Open a store they don't need in order to drive the local stores out of business then close that store and rely on captive consumers driving to the nearest Walmart store.

Fully legal (in the US anyway) but deeply, deeply, morally and ethically corrupt.

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Before, people worked in cottage industries, they were their own boss, worked on their own time, and had a good work life balance.

Au contraire - the people doing "piece-work" were barely above the bread line and spent most of their day (and their childrens days) making sufficient pieces to fulfill their quota.

The automation came in and deprived them even of that - and they had no salable skills. With no sort of social care in place and no alternative work (the farms were also starting to mechanise too and anyway, most of the people were not suitable for being employed by farms for heavy manual labour).

So it was a case of work or start. Once the automation came along and removed the "work" part, it was inevitable that the automation would be the target of vandalism.

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Unhappy

"Labour arbitrage"

Yes that's a more honest description of the process.

However arbitrage is a process that has gone on for centuries and has performed a useful function for all parties.

These companies do not.

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Re: "Labour arbitrage"

Other terms are available. Pimping?

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Sharing economy, gig economy, disruptive monopoly

Fancy words with a simple explanation: exploitative practices.

String 'em up. It's the only language they understand.

(That should appeal to the cabbies.)

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LDS
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" Until the "digital era" we've treated humans differently"

Ehr, no, only from the second half of the XIX century or so (although the idea took the stage in the last part of the XVIII), and it took a long time before it became the norm.

Before you had slavery, serf, bondmen - humans were treated as assets or goods if they were not lucky enough to be born in the right families - and they could still become goods after a war or for crimes/debts (unless usually the very privileged ones).

It's no surprise that many religious-oriented political sides denounce Enlightenment as the mother of the actual catastrophes - including religious terrorism - after all religions quietly accepted slavery and serfdom for centuries... they just promised a better life after death, to convince them to accept their ugly one on this land, and to be exploited by the few lucky ones.

It looks the current idea is to return there....

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Re: " Until the "digital era" we've treated humans differently"

"It looks the current idea is to return there...." To be fair, I think we're already there. How many people own what share of the world's total wealth? It's lords and peasants (or serfs, churls, helots, choose your comparison) time again children.

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Re: " Until the "digital era" we've treated humans differently"

Not quite there yet. Serfs were unable to move to another area if they so chose, could not choose to learn a new job...you farmed. Period. Grow crops for the Lord on the good land over here, and whatever you coax into growing in this lousy, rock-filled mudland over there, you can keep, to eat. Want to get married? Not unless the bride-to-be were the daughter of another serf - if you fell for the girl on the next farm but that farm was under another Lord - no marriage. The Lord owning that next farm wouldn't let Miss Serf leave to go help farm someone else's land.

Most of us can still choose who we marry...we set down roots and live in one area, one city, one neighborhood because of our own choice to feel "connected", not because of being forced to. We stay at jobs making us miserable because job hunting sucks, not because we have to. We have time after our jobs to have hobbies, and for some who have skills, their hobbies might even make them more money. I wish I had skills...but, I can find someone to teach me new skills!

I think a medieval serf would kill every person he knew for the life any of us lead today.

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Re: " Until the "digital era" we've treated humans differently"

We're WAY past "there". Wealth inequality is worse now than it was during the Medieval Feudal era.

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Re: " Until the "digital era" we've treated humans differently"

Serfs were unable to move to another area if they so chose, could not choose to learn a new job

Not strictly true - there was the "year and a day" rule. If a serf could leave the lords lands and live away from them for a year and a day, then he was counted as a free man.

Of course, doing so was difficult, dangerous and risky - not the least because the only skills most of them posessed were farming/labouring skills. And the nobles wanted to discourage this amongst their own serfs and so were more than happy to hand the runaways over to the previous owner which would lead to unpleasant consequences.

One of the less enjoyable things that the Normas brought to England - the feudal system. Sure the Norse and Saxons has slaves and bondsmen (taken in war or bought), but at least they could had ways to get out of that state (as did slaves in ancient Rome). Serfs didn't - except for the above year and a day or being uplifted by their feudal owner.

I think a medieval serf would kill every person he knew for the life any of us lead today.

Slightly OTT but contains the kernel of truth. We (in the western world) have a lifesytle and means impossible to conceive of even 100 years ago. And we moan because the barista made our coffee slightly worng?

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Re: " Until the "digital era" we've treated humans differently"

2 thumbs down?

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2010/dec/06/medieval-britons-richer-than-modern-poor

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The court said Uber drivers are Workers, not Employees

They are not the same thing. Employees have more rights than Workers: unfair dismissal rights, statutory maternity pay, statutory sick pay, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Only idiots would work for chump change in the gig economy

Last Uber I got into (paid for by someone else, I'm not a customer of their services) - the 'self-employed' cabbie was bemoaning the fact he only got paid for the work he did, and it did not cover the costs of running his car or made enough profit from this to be worthwhile.

So I asked him what the fuck he was doing with his life - working for nothing, costing him his time and effort for zero reward, just to make a mega-corp bigger so that it can become an exploitative monopoly. His response - 'something to do, innit'

You get what you deserve if you work in this economy.

The rest of us are constantly learning and developing valuable skills that are worth real money in permanent jobs with a regular income. Till they fuck us over and outsource us all again that is...

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Big Brother

Re: Only idiots would work for chump change in the gig economy

Increasingly you will find there's very little choice. Technology is used to deskill jobs so that one idiot working for chump change who leaves can simply be replaced with another, and there's one born every minute.

Before I took up IT I worked in a good number of different industries, and I just found myself considering how many of those tasks have now been deskilled so that, instead having to treat employees reasonable well so you don't have to train up another, you just swap one helot for another and no-one can tell the difference. For example I'm old enough to remember a time when shop workers had to be reasonably literate and numerate, but now...

That's why Uber, for example, fight against anything, like language or licensing, that might reduce their ability to replace one unskilled idiot with another. But the end of it... is it a tiny elite living in luxury while the robot police shoot down any unemployed who dare move out of their ghettos - or is it a tiny elite hanging from the lamp posts?

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Re: Only idiots would work for chump change in the gig economy

Sadly, not everyone can be IT or a programmer. Not if society is to survive.

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Re: Only idiots would work for chump change in the gig economy

The rest of us are constantly learning and developing valuable skills that are worth real money in permanent jobs with a regular income. Till they fuck us over and outsource us all again that is...

Your cognitive dissonance is stunning.

Or did you forget the sarcasm tag?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only idiots would work for chump change in the gig economy

The rest of us are constantly learning and developing valuable skills that are worth real money in permanent jobs with a regular income. Till they fuck us over and outsource us all again that is...

"Your cognitive dissonance is stunning.

Or did you forget the sarcasm tag?"

No - the point I made is valid. It is possible to find and remain in full time employment if you keep skills relevant to those which are required. The point I was making is that this approach hedges the bets in your favour for remaining in a full-time permanent employment - this does not however make you immune to the whims of the Executive elite who (despite your competency and skills) who would see you as replaceable by an outsourced drone.

I'm working smart to stack the odds in my favour, but am not so naive as to know that ANY permanent role now is under constant threat from being shipped out to the cheapest bidder.

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Anonymous Coward

Resources?

Until the "digital era" we've treated humans differently, implicitly recognising that a worker is not a lump of bricks or machinery

I think the rot set in when "Personnel" became "Human Resources"

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Up the workers?

In my youth we marched up and down chanting "The workers united will never be defeated." Which was probably true. But some of the workers didn't seem to clock that this meant themselves. And others didn't notice that it meant other people.

So you got ordinary working people voting for a government that was out to cut (their) unions down.

And you got some unions that didn't bother too much about other workers. The unions failed to protect and support the staff at Grunwick when it came to the crunch. At that point it was pretty clear to the free-market right that the unions could be divided and broken when they got into power.

Has it made the UK into a land flowing with riches? Think "austerity".

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LDS
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Re: Up the workers?

The problem arises when the unions are highly politicized, and work on a political agenda, usually closely tied to some political party, and pretend to care about workers when they actually don't, spending more time in political propaganda, than in negotiating better workers conditions.

Just check the difference between, for example, unions in Britain and Italy (highly politicized) and those in Germany (which have a structure that forces them to care more about workers...).

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Re: Up the workers?

So you got ordinary working people voting for a government that was out to cut (their) unions down.

That's because the people had become sick of unions holding the country to ransom.

So when people couldn't buy British cars because the Leyland workers were on strike (again) despite having some of the best terms and conditions for industrial workers, people get annoyed. When we got rolling blackouts because the coal-fired power stations couldn't get the regular supplies of coal because of miners strikes (now they I had more sympathy with - they were working in hideous conditions for laughably too-small pay - but all the strikes they did hadn't solved things).

The final straw was Arthur Scargill taking the miners out because of politic, not because of any issues related to the miners themselves. Unions had got so big that their bosses had become utterly divorced from the workers and were instead using the political power they represented for the bosses own ends.

Unions have a place - defending their members. What they don't have a place doing is telling their non-members what they can and can't do and in the 70s far too many of them had crossed that line.

Now we have gone too far the other way. I'm sure that the pendulum will inevitably swing back the other way - manybe after a few swings it's settle into a position where the power of the unions are balanced with responsibility. And the power of the Government is balanced with responsibility.

I like to dream.

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The actual subsidy number was 59%

The study published at Naked Capitalism by Mr. Horan noted that passengers were paying only 41% of the cost of the ride - which makes for a 59% subsidy.

I have yet to see any credible rebuttal to that analysis: that Uber's routing or whatever other technological blabberty increases driver efficiency vs. normal Taxi routing.

Shocking indeed (not) that passengers love Uber but the drivers don't.

In fact, the data that I have seen such as Seattle's ride sharing, taxi and for hire study show that ride sharing drivers have a significantly lower productivity during peak hours vs. taxis. This actually supports the "congestion" pricing algorithm Uber uses although, as usual, their PR blabberty skirts this reality.

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Taxi drivers have traditionally been mostly self-employed

See title.

Whether Uber is "A Good Thing" or not is irrelevant to that. Let's not confuse/conflate the two separate issues.

My old man was a private hire driver - no apps in those days, but it cost him £400 a month to rent the two-way radio from the guys with the portacabin and the advertising budget.

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Anonymous Coward

Marx is looking increasingly prescient

Labor is a form of capital without which the economy cannot function. People who have the other types of capital (money, land, machinery) need the services of labor to grow their piece of the economy. A fair exchange of value is when the contribution of capital made by labor is fairly rewarded. Unsurprisingly, this doesn't happen. Labor's only solution is to withhold their labor until it does. Hence the burning, visceral incentive amongst the holders of other forms of capital to prevent labor from organizing.

Truly, labor stands together or we all swirl down the bowl.

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> Few people object to a private individual renting a lawnmower or a room.

Lawnmowers aren't a basic essential and aren't in limited supply, but AirBnB surely isn't helping the housing crisis.

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