On Friday the 18th of February, the UK Supreme Court announced its judgement on the case Uber V Aslam, rejecting Uber's appeal and declaring that two of its drivers, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar must be classified as workers. This was the end of 5 years of legal challenges, with Uber taking their appeal to the highest court in the country.
For Yaseen Aslam, it was 7 years in the making and took him on a journey that would dominate his life in ways he never would have imagined.
This episode looks at contracts and in it, we hear from Yaseen Aslam, the former Uber driver who successfully took them to court over his classification as a self-employed independent contractor, a ruling that has implications for gig workers in the UK and beyond. We hear Yaseen’s personal account of a case that has made headlines around the globe. We find out what it is like taking on a multinational corporation, organising gig workers in the UK, and what inspired him to do it.
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11. 011: Coda04:42In the final episode of this series of the Fairwork Podcast, we look back at the different stories we've heard, what lessons have we learnt? What can these stories tell us about the nature of work in planetary labour markets? What are the challenges workers face? And what does the future hold?If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
10. 010: A Roof Over My Head23:18Research conducted by our colleagues at the Online Labour Index at the Oxford Internet Institute found that in 2020, Serbia had around 70,000 people finding work on digital platforms. That’s around 2% of the total workforce, giving Serbia the highest per capita concentration of freelancers working via digital platforms of any country in the world.In this episode of the Fairwork podcast we return to Belgrade Serbia and look at the freelancer protests that swept the country in 2021. In this episode we start with the story of Tamara and her role within the organisation of these strikes, before going on to look back at what the campaign has achieved in the past 2 years.You can check out the Online Labour Index here: http://onlinelabourobservatory.org/If you have any thoughts, suggestions or comments, you can reach me on email@example.com
9. 009: A Guide to Making Friends as a Freelancer26:03In this series of the Fairwork podcast, we’ve looked at work in the planetary labour market, we’ve looked at the experiences and stories of workers who work via digital platforms, from Colombia, to Germany, the USA to the UK. But in each of these stories, not once have any two workers actually met. Think about that for a moment, none of the workers I’ve spoken to for this series have ever come into physical contact with their colleagues through doing their work. But in the final two episodes of this series, we'll to focus on an example of workers coming together to deny the isolation imposed on them, to look at an example of workers who have overcome the barriers placed between them to come together, organise and campaign for their livelihoods.In December last year I was lucky enough to spend some time in Belgrade Serbia, where I met workers, journalists and researchers and spoke to them about the freelancer strikes and protests that occurred at the end of 2020 and throughout 2021, in which workers came together to protest against changes to how the government would tax income from overseas. Serbia has one of the highest proportions of workers working via digital platforms, with an estimated 2% of the national workforce using digital platforms, and as we’ll see, new government legislation threatened to shut the platform economy in Serbia down, forever.In this two-part episode, we look at how freelancers from across the country came together to fight for their livelihood.Here's the Wikipedia article about the parliment building (including some pictures of the horses we reference): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_the_National_Assembly_of_the_Republic_of_Serbia
8. 008: A Platform Named Desire28:48The history of the internet and of pornography are deeply intertwined, they mix and overlap that to see one without the other is to only capture half the picture. And the human desire for sex is often a desire that has driven the development of many of the technologies that underpin modern life. Sex workers have often been early adopters of digital technologies, but sex workers don’t just take advantage of technology, they are part of driving their creation and uptake.In this episode of the Fairwork podcast we speak to Dr Heather Berg, an Academic and writer based in Washington state. Our conversation, recorded last year, looks at the platformisation of sex work, the radical restructuring of the porn industry that this has brought about, and the changing workplace conditions that platforms like OnlyFans have ushered in for workers.For the introduction of this episode I took a lot of influence from this great website which I highly recommend you check out as it has loads of great articles and archive materials about sex workers early adoption and development of internet technologies: https://sexworkersbuilttheinter.net/There's also this great article by Gabrielle Garcia and it was a lecture by Gabrielle that initially put me on to the story of Danni's Hard drive: https://decodingstigma.substack.com/p/cybernetic-sex-workerHeather's book Porn Work is out now - definitely check it out as she's not just a brilliant speaker, but writer too: https://uncpress.org/book/9781469661926/porn-work/For the academics in the room, I'd also highly recommend this great article by Dr Kate Hardy: https://read.dukeupress.edu/south-atlantic-quarterly/article-abstract/120/3/533/174127/Hustling-the-PlatformCapitalist-Experiments-and?redirectedFrom=fulltext
7. 007: OnlyBans49:02In the summer of 2021, probably the world’s largest sex work platform, OnlyFans announced that it would be banning creators from posting sexual content. The platform which rose to prominence in the pandemic, allows people to monetise the content they produce, gathering payment in exchange for access to pictures, videos and communication channels. Today, there are around 1.5 millions creators on OnlyFans, and many of them are reliant on the platform to enable them to survive – to cover their everyday needs. The decision was ultimately reversed and OnlyFans remains the largest and best known remote sex work platform, but this example serves to highlight the precarious position of sex workers working online. The rug can be pulled from under your feet at any time, without any meaningful way for you as a worker to contest or shape decisions as to what kinds of content are allowed.In the next few episodes of the Fairwork podcast, we’ll be exploring the world of online sex work. In this episode we start with an interview with a worker on OnlyFans. We’ll hear his story of making it on the platform, and the realities of make a living online. After that we’ll speak to Dr Helen Rand, senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Greenwich, where we discuss the broader implications surrounding the platformisation of online sex work.You can play the brilliant OnlyBans game here: onlybansgame.com/playHelen Rand's paper 'Challenging the Invisibility of Sex Work in Digital Labour Politics' can be found here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0141778919879749You can find info on UCU Strikes here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/rising
6. 006: YouTube Gets A Union Part 230:00If you’re making your living from YouTube, there’s no financial safety net, no contract, no sick pay, holiday pay. it’s a fierce popularity contest in which an individual’s earnings is largely determined by a set of black box systems; recommendation algorithms and demonetisation processes, which you, as a worker, don’t get any insight into. They are determined solely by YouTube, without consultation, even though they hugely influence the working experiences of content creators on the platform.At the same time, the amount of content uploaded to YouTube is astronomical – equivalent to 400 hours of new content every minute. For every successful content creator, there is apparently a whole army waiting in the wings to take over should they miss a step, stumble or fall down. A seemingly endless pool of labour in a labour market without geographic barriers.Understandably the pressure that this can take on YouTubers is huge.In this episode we return to hear the conclusion of Jorge Sprave’s story. In part one of this two part story, we head his story of getting to YouTube with the Slingshot Channel, where he makes homemade weapons and launchers, how he left his well paying job to go full time on the platform and how his income collapsed following the implementation of a series of policies by YouTube – in a period that would be know as the Adpocalypse. We return to the story looking at what steps Jorge took to combat the changes.Olga Kay's story for this podcast came from an interview for this book written by Chris Stokel Walker https://www.canburypress.com/products/youtubers-by-chris-stokel-walkerThere's a lot of great stuff on YouTube itself about creator burnout that helped me with this episode. Here's a few things I wanted to share:Great short documentary by the BBC with a focus on Latin American creators https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUrNbl1lNV4&t=3sElle Mills' Burnout at 19 video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKKwgq9LRgAThe Mental Health Struggles Of Being A YouTuber: Trolls, Jealousy, Burnout by Dr Ali ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq4YhMUvhjQ&t=920s
5. 005: YouTube Gets A Union - Part 128:45In 2019 a poll found that 30% of children in the UK and the US would choose being a Youtuber as their preferred profession ahead of jobs like astronaught, musician, athlete, or teacher – making it the top rated profession amongst school age children. It’s a sought after job, apparently. But YouTube isn’t just a cultural phenomenon it’s also an economic and technological phenomenon as well, involving the use of a digital platform to manage a distributed workforce spread across the globe. And the practices and protocols that Google, the company that owns YouTube, employs have huge impacts on shaping the working conditions that YouTubers experience. In this two part episode of the Fairwork podcast, we hear from Jörg Sprave, a German Youtuber who runs the slingshot channel, a channel where he makes homemade slingshots and launchers. We hear his story of getting into YouTube, what it is actually like making a living from YouTube, what happens when the platform on which you’ve built your livelihood starts to make seismic shifts, and how he formed the world’s first union, for Youtubers. Here's Jörg's Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVZlxkKqlvVqzRJXhAGq42QThere's loads of good videos about the Adpocalypse on YouTube itself, but I found this one particularly informative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7M7yyRDHGc&ab_channel=vlogbrothersAs always, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.orgRobyn Caplan has written a great academic article with Tarleton Gillespie on YouTube's demonetisation policies which you can find here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2056305120936636
4. 004: Love, Loss and Unpaid Wages29:51In this episode of the podcast, we hear the story of Lisa, a worker on Appen, based in the UK. We hear her story of struggling to make a living or Appen, or maybe more accurately, struggling to not make a living, in this epic tale of love, loss and unpaid wages.Here's some of the resources that I used to write the introduction in case you would like to do some further reading:https://theintercept.com/2019/02/04/google-ai-project-maven-figure-eight/https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/technology/google-letter-ceo-pentagon-project.htmlI originally read about the project and it's link with microwork in Phil Jones' book 'Work Without the Worker' which I'd highly recommend:https://www.versobooks.com/books/3869-work-without-the-workerYou can reach out to me (Robbie) at email@example.com in case you have any thoughts, reflections or comments on the podcast.
Bonus Episode: UCU Strike06:56Many members of Fairwork staff at the University of Oxford took part recently in 3 days strike action against falling wages, casualisation, pension cuts and increasing workload. The action was part of a nationwide strike across the university sector, coordinated by our union UCU. The strikes culminated in a demonstration in London's Kings Cross attended by thousands of our colleagues from around the country.Robbie took his audio recorder down to the demo and asked members of the Fairwork team why they were striking.As always you can contact Robbie at firstname.lastname@example.org