Uber drivers in the US, UK, Brazil and beyond are striking over salaries and working conditions at the ride-hailing app.

The drivers will withhold their services and log out of the app for several hours Wednesday.

Companies like Uber, Careem and Deliveroo—which hire freelancers and contractors rather than full-time staff, and pay them by task rather than time—constitute the “gig economy”.

Supporters argue its flexible, no-strings model provides swift remuneration, and more control and freedom than traditional contracts.

But critics claim “zero-hour contracts” exploit workers, stripping workers of sick pay, minimum wages, or cancellation compensation.

Drivers’ unions worldwide deplore Uber’s slashes to pay and "perks": the latter lured drivers in; the former forced them to undertake 60-hour weeks or sleep in their cars to get by.

Although Uber claims to operate at a loss, it is seeking an $80-100 billion valuation ahead of its initial public offering (IPO), due this Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Gig companies are notoriously resistant to unionisation.

However, the Conversation noted Uber’s reluctance may be fuelled by studies suggesting unionisation, long-term, damages publicly-traded firms’ equity value.

Is the gig economy’s aversion to collective action motivated by fears that functioning unions—by successfully advocating for improved conditions—could cut into margins?

What place for collective bargaining in the gig economy?

 

Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.