Work experience

Comment on the article The Uber ruling is meddlesome over-regulation – which will ultimately backfire by Morgan Schondelmeier in The Telegraph, 19 February 2021. Polish version: Doświadczenie zawodowe.

Lech S Borkowski comment The Telegraph 19 February 2021
Lech S Borkowski comment in The Telegraph 19 February 2021

19 Feb 2021 8:43PM
I doubt the author worked at the lowest rungs of the gig economy. She does not seem to have contacted the Uber workers themselves. She ‘thinks’ she can write on behalf of everyone else without actually trying to do this kind of job herself or without gathering opinions from Uber employees.

When I came to London in 2016 I needed a job quickly. I came because I was fired from a university in Poland where I was an associate professor of physics. My pianist wife was fired from her job at the state school of music. Our family has been targeted for political reasons for a very long time. We were in debt and at high risk of losing our flat in Poland, on which we still pay mortgage.

Although I do have high qualifications and a PhD from an American university, nobody was waiting for me at the Victoria bus terminal, where I arrived one June morning. There was no welcome committee and no red carpet. Even the room I reserved before leaving Poland was suddenly not available.

In my first job I was cleaning restaurants at night. I was employed by a Belgian restaurant chain with significant presence in central London. My basic rights were violated. I was not paid for transport between restaurants and for the time spent moving from one location to another. I read the law regulating workers pay in these circumstances and it was clear the company violated the law. No one, however, was willing to listen. My Lithuanian partner and I were eventually terminated after 99 nights of working continuously without a time off. We were offered a night off once a week or so, but not a week off after several weeks of continuous work. Our proposal made more sense because it would give us time to travel and visit family. One night off a week would only disrupt our body clock without providing any benefit. We received some of the money owed several months later after I sent an email detailing the amounts the company owed us and tbe basis of our calculation.

The overall experience was humiliating.

In my next job I was a self-employed leaflet distributor. Theoretically, I was a subcontractor to a leaflet distribution company. However in reality we were employees. Each day we had to show up at a specific location somewhere in London at a specific time and we had nothing to say about it. You either accepted it or you didn’t get the job. Starting time was not negotiable even if you were to appear on the outskirts of London at, say, 6 a.m. because the job was far outside London and the supervisor was not willing to delay starting time. It takes couple of hours to get through London in those circumstances. We worked under strict supervision. Each shift supervisor was also self-employed. He/she was telling us what the company wanted from us. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Although he or she was representing the company, he/she was not a company employee.

I was forced to come to work in a sporting outfit although it was not making me work any better or faster. It was actually less convenient. At some point we were filmed jogging while delivering leaflets. I did not express my consent to be filmed. This was apparently done to impress some customers. Both being filmed and forced to jog was humiliating. There was not much choice, however. Expressing a critical view resulted in being summoned to the office in west London, where they made you wait for half an hour before being reprimanded. To show you how insignificant you are. Totally humiliating and a huge waste of time.

The company wanted to project the image of people doing the job for fun and making some money at the same time. Their logo pictured a jogger. They were viewed very positively during the company predentation in a tv program a few years back. The reality is different.

Then there was bullying and other inconveniences. So I was sometimes bullied on behalf of the company by another self-employed contractor. Ridiculous. There were also slave-like situations, when we were sitting in a car somewhere outside London and nobody could say how long the situation would last. This was the result of someone’s poor planning and we were not paid for the time spent waiting.

The company did nothing to help you with your physiological needs. In this job you walk continuously for 6-8 hours. What if you have a physiological need? It is your problem. You start and finish by a predetermined time. Toilet breaks are not part of the schedule and it is entirely up to you how you solve the problem.

How many jobs of this kind has the article’s author done herself?

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