AS PEOPLE ACROSS THE COUNTRY STRUGGLE with the cost of living crisis this Christmas, a new survey by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB)reveals the extent of its triple impact on platform workers in the gig economy, who are also being hit with falling pay and soaring costs. Over 260 workers responded to the IWGB survey about how the cost of living crisis has impacted them over the past six months.
Many gig workers are paid poverty wages by multinational corporations like Amazon, Uber and Deliveroo. However, because they are categorised as self-employed, they are also liable for business costs such as fuel and insurance. As a result, platform workers are doubly impacted by the cost of living crisis, while also facing intensified exploitation in the form of pay cuts.
Nine in 10 respondents, predominantly couriers and private hire drivers, report rising fuel and vehicle costs while half report recent pay cuts, in some cases of up to 50 per cent. More than three quarters have had to increase their weekly working hours, while four in 10 say they have been forced to take up a second job in the run up to Christmas. Eight in 10 are being forced to cut back on household food and energy spending, while almost four in 10 (38.9 per cent) are having to cut back on housing expenses or have failed to make rental payments on their home.
Helio Cruz-Santos, a private hire driver, says: “Parents working in the gig economy are amongst the hardest hit in this crisis because we have no basic worker rights to fall back on. Many of us can’t even afford to put the heating on for our kids. I am desperate to get out of the gig economy, it’s pointless, it’s inhumane and the only support we get is from our union, otherwise we’re isolated and at the mercy of the app.”
Shaf Hussain, a courier based in London, says: “Gig platforms have this great reputation for finding innovative new ways to turn a profit in tough times but what they hide behind their algorithms is that our quality of life is being driven down at twice the rate those profits rise. This money is being squeezed from families who can barely afford to keep warm and fed this winter. But it can only continue until enough of us come together and say enough is enough.”
Alex Marshall, President, IWGB, says: “Gig workers are amongst the hardest hit because they are facing a double blow, not just from the economy but from their bosses, who are essentially cutting pay while the costs of the job, like fuel and insurance, skyrocket. The gig economy has always preyed on poverty and precarity, so the cost of living crisis creates a perfect climate for corporations to push down pay and conditions in the name of profit, whatever the cost to workers, their families and society as a whole.”