One of the things we tend to believe about the gig economy is that it’s going to reduce union power. Indeed, reduce any organised power of workers. Simply because how do you organise any large group of self employed gig economy workers? Thus it’s going to be interesting to see what the outcome of this strike in India is. Drivers for Uber and Ola are striking in Mumbai:
AS many as 5,000 drivers of app-based cab aggregators Ola and Uber went off the road on Tuesday to protest what they called “unfair policies of the companies and their walking back on the promises made to driver-partners”. This caused inconvenience to commuters as less than usual cabs were available for app-based booking.
The claim at least is that the strike is pretty solid:
On Tuesday, over 90% of Ola and Uber cabs stayed off roads,
90% obeyed the strike call? That’s better than managed at some highly unionised and more traditional places. How long that sort of solidarity will last is unknown of course. It’s also true that the system is leaky:
Citizens are, however, getting Ola autos in suburbs as this this group of drivers have no grievance about any drop in earnings.
The underlying complaint seems as it usually is in a strike. The drivers want higher earnings. Petrol prices have risen in India recently, which is given as one reason, but that wouldn’t strike the downtown drivers only.
The drivers launched their strike on Monday in Mumbai, under the banner of Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh (MRRKS). They want revisions in the regulations guiding fares and commissions. “Ola and Uber are asking us to call off the strike without fulfilling their [the drivers’] demands. However, we have conveyed our stand that the strike will continue till the demands are fulfilled,” said Sunil Borkar, secretary of MRRKS.
The best bet here is that this group has found a manner, method, of organising. Such things do happen almost randomly. Not the desire to group together, but the reality of it. Some live spark triggers that unity and off it goes. The bigger question is what happens next?
Are we going to see that gig economy workers can indeed organise and gain better terms? Or are the internal contradictions of the self employed trying to do so going to pull this all apart? There’s quite a lot of the global economy that depends upon the answer to this really, isn’t there?