Uber struggles to maintain its status in the US and Europe questions the future of labor

by Kelvin
Uber struggles to maintain its status in the US and Europe questions the future of labor

The rise and fall of companies in the world is part of the usual evolution of the economy. There are few entities that survive many years. Some disappear, others are bought or merged with a much larger fish. Many of them go to a better life by changing the tastes of users; recently the travel agency Thomas Cook has announced its bankruptcy. With the new horde of entities, mainly of technological nature, we will have to wait to know what their life expectancy is.

Few are those who venture to determine the future of the "new economy" or "platform economy", precisely because of the new. Likewise, the profile is, more or less the same: service companies, with few assets in ownership, large forecasts of global growth due to their high scalability, millions in investments and so-called IPOs that end up in figures somewhat colder than expected . However, if all the experts agree on something about the common profile of these companies, it is in their relationship with the labor and regulatory market. So much so that the new paradigm earned its own name: the uberization of the economy.


Action, reaction and speech positioning

As a rebellious teenager, the digital economy sector – some players – has managed to move like a fish in the water with well-positioned game rules against it. In other words: they have done and undone at will. How have they done it? For Carlos Gutierrez, of Comisiones Obreras, the system is clear: "A very well kept speech associated with the precariousness that sells the benefits of a system that is only making us go back to the labor rights of the 19th century, "he explains. A return to the labor force as merchandise.

"At the beginning everything was associated with the collaborative economy, and we all like that, but that has already been lost and we have moved to the platforms focusing all their efforts on being modern companies that are linked to social status."

In the end, he argues, the new offer of technology companies – and insists that not all, because there is everything in the world – they have known how to associate with a low price and leisure at home. "If you can't go out to dinner, ask for food. If you don't have money to pay for a car, ask for a cheaper one. If you can't have a house, go to a coliving, for the shared office a coworking and they also offer you to work during the holidays 'but in another way'; All this is associated with a vicious circle of precariousness in the face of such a large group of people who need to eat, consume and live that, indirectly, they make inequality grow, "he explains.

Indeed, if there is something to be granted to the new economy, it is to know how to position oneself in the needs of the people or, from their point of view, users. Glovo or Deliveroo, Uber or Cabify, Airbnb … conquered the smartphones of users for a long time. So much so that during his first years of growth and expansion, few political forces dared to get in his way: they were a source of employment in the years after the world crisis – the type of employment at that time did not matter –, source of investment attraction and, especially, of technological innovation and productivity. Now, the rules of the game are changing through the path of work and, for Miguel Angel García, deputy employment counselor of the Junta de Andalucía, "not all companies have been based on greater technology and productivity, as shown by bike dealers or car drivers. " Likewise, it adds as a differentiating element for the growth of these types of economies, the question of competitiveness:

"It has lost the competitiveness of advanced countries, which enjoyed a privileged position, in favor of emerging countries; because the world has changed. Given this situation, many companies must maintain a lower remuneration for labor and capital." .

The flight from labor and the future of the digital economy

"Uber has not invented it, nor is it going to end with them," says Carlos. "It is true that technological changes have encouraged the labor issue, but they are not determining or excluding."

The issue of employability and, especially, the quality of employment has brought head-to-head to the governments of several of the countries in the world in which these companies are operating. While Deliveroo already counts sentences against Spain for what has been considered a relationship of "false autonomous" and Glovo plays on the tightrope with a 50-50 in the Courts – the lack of consensus on whether the distributors are autonomous or not It remains at the center of the debate.

In the housing sector, the owners against Airbnb achieved a kind of victory in some capitals; Madrid, under the Government of Carmena was positioned against the tourist rental with some chiaroscuro. In the mobility chapter, the last thing about the rivalry between the taxi and the different platforms has been the filing of a demand (on the taxi side) for the unlawful transfer of drivers between companies as reported by El Confidencial.

Across the pond, in the United States, the battle for labor also promises to be long. For a while now, the governments of the different regions have been initiating legislation that compromises the activity of some of the big technology companies. While the strikes of the Uber drivers are happening for what they consider to be a hit him on the part of the company, lower its commissions while the prices of the routes increase, The New York Government has demanded a minimum wage for these workers and has blocked the number of vehicles that drive on the roads.

In California, a bill could end the Uber or Lyft business. According to AB5 (Bill 5), the objective would be to make all drivers employees – now self-employed. This would force the platforms to offer them a minimum wage, vacations, days off and an increase in the estimated costs of approximately 500 million dollars.

For Uber and Lyft this would put in check their system of non-professional drivers in the United States, which failed to enter the European market. According to its first statements, this law will not apply to its drivers since according to the text it would only affect the "fundamental elements of the business". Again, arrives the debate of transport company or platforms; what in Europe was sentenced that was part of the first, in the United States they still remain in the second. At the moment, the situation promises to become a long legal dispute, for which Lyft and Uber have promised to pay 60 million dollars.

Could this happen in Europe? The reality is that the Old Continent has already fought with the technology giants on several occasions and they maintain a system diametrically opposed to that of the United States. For Carlos, although the situation of the North American country attracts attention, "European work environments do not allow wide sleeves," he explains. Glovo has been requesting a system similar to that of the French digital freelance in response to all the problems of labor in Spain, however, "you have to be very careful with this," argue from CC.OO., "there is a ruling against Just Eat (under this system) in France by false freelancers; no matter what you call it, because if there is subordination there is. The problem is not the regulation, it is that the new business models do not adapt to any labor figure and, therefore, perhaps they should not exist ". However, they still believe that they will gain employment in an environment in which, according to their point of view, the platform economy is putting labor rights at risk as we know them.

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