For real jobs, not ‘gig economy’

Deliveroo food delivery workers are unionising to win employment rights

Deliveroo food delivery workers are unionising to win employment rights   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Pete Offord, Lewisham Socialist Party

Unemployment levels are at their lowest for eleven years, according to the Office for National Statistics. You might be forgiven for thinking that the economy had turned a corner.

However, when you scrape below the surface of the headlines, then for ordinary people there is little to celebrate. The figures are propped up by a big rise in often bogus self-employment, now 15% of the total UK workforce.

Most of these workers are living on a knife’s edge. 50% of them take home less than half the national average. This is part of an explosion in casual labour. The Guardian estimates around seven million are now in precarious employment – including self-employed, temporary and zero-hour contract workers.

These jobs have the lowest levels of employment rights, and are no longer confined to the ‘McJobs’ of the fast food industry. Within higher education, over 50% of teaching staff are now on temporary or casual contracts.

Meanwhile, the recruitment agencies supplying much of this cheap labour have found ever more inventive ways to profit from the misery of others. Large agencies are exploiting a loophole which allows them to collect employment allowances designed to help small businesses, avoiding tax and national insurance.

As reported in the pages of the Socialist, we have already seen a fightback. Most notable are the recent industrial victory of Deliveroo drivers, and the court victory of Uber drivers.

The Socialist Party welcomes these victories. We fight for an end to the gig economy, and decent hours, pay and conditions for all. Nationalise the tax dodgers and invest in jobs and services for everyone.