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The collarless workers: the new precarious workers of the tourism industry

Chronicle of Josette Sicsic (Touriscopie)


We knew about the blue and white collars: employees like you and I, working in the secondary and primary sectors, covered by rights, structured, protected… Now we should know about the collarless. Workers devoid of any collar, used by unconscientious gigantic startups, many that operate within the tourism sector. What is this all about?



The Y generation isn’t lacking in energy nor ideas to invite itself to the feast and demand its share of the cake. But, behind these mountains of dollars, do we talk about these thousands of workers used by global startups to run their machinery smoothly?  - DR : Fotolia/fotodesign-jegg.de
The Y generation isn’t lacking in energy nor ideas to invite itself to the feast and demand its share of the cake. But, behind these mountains of dollars, do we talk about these thousands of workers used by global startups to run their machinery smoothly? - DR : Fotolia/fotodesign-jegg.de
The summer brought some good and bad news in geopolitics, a window into the instability of the world in which we live.

From the Iran nuclear deal to attacks in Tunisia, with the tragedy of migrants in the Meditarrenean and the parade of personal dramas, these are all indicators that this world is never devoid events, big or small.

Between the Greek crisis and the weather, between wonderful touristic results and the stock-market crisis in China, we also discussed at length the triumph of the sharing economy and the spectacular fundraisers that it inspired.

And we wrote and talked a lot about the frustration of Uber in front of the revolt of French taxis.

Mixed between admiration and resentment, we simultaneously praised the capitalizations that exceeded debt that sparked the outpouring of young geeks towards the Web economy.

Impatient to make a fortune, it is clear that the generation Y isn’t lacking in energy nor ideas to invite itself to the feast of chaos and demand its share of the cake.

These strange freelance autonomous workers!

Josette Sicsic - DR
Josette Sicsic - DR
But, behind these mountains of dollars, do we talk about the thousands of workers utilized by these global startups to keep their machinery going?

Qualified as independent workers, so treated as much, with everything that this implies of no social protections and rights, these new precarious workers are not as satisfied with their job as we’d like to believe.

In fact, in the US, they have spoken out. And, in California, defended by the lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, they could win their case.

Formidable, this lawyer, who had already won against FedEx, demands that Uber’s drivers be recognized like employees, with all the rights that this entails.

Enough to make the giant tremble along with its economic model based on the strange status of a “connecting platform.”

At Uber, and many other less popular startups, there is no concept of an employer. The platforms only aids in “connecting” an offer with a demand, users with service providers.

And, of course, they boast about the massive satisfaction rates brought on by this formula to workers, who are happy to make some extra cash every month!

Technical progress to replace workers

Of course, startups like Lyft or, in another sector, Taskrabbit, that offers domestic labor, are in the same boat.

And, on a smaller scale, the startups established on the “connecting” of “local guides” or cleaning personnel for the providers of private accommodations like Airbnb, are doing just the same.

Using the auto-entrepreneur status expected from their personnel, they carefully avoid the torments of social compensation!

But the party could be over soon. Because despite the shortage of jobs, our countries are not completely ready to sacrifice 150 years of social struggles.

We surely dont want to create masses of precarious workers on their way to destroying the jobs of “real” workers, employed by also “real” companies of which their contributions nourish the accounts of the Welfare State.

According to the economist Daniel Cohen, who has recently published an excellent book called Le monde est close et le désir infini [The World is Closed and Desire Infinite - translator’s note], technical progress is aiming at essentially replacing workers.

The tourism industry constantly out on a limb

Which explains the risks of chronic growth decline. Not satisfied with replacing employes, we also make their situation more unsafe.

And, the tourism industry - that already had its share of precarious workers: the “seasonal” workers - is first in line in this new shifting of the world order, on the bad side.

Due to shining the glitters of technology too bright and speculating on the capitalizations of these new multinationals, of which the CEO wears jeans, sneakers, Google glasses and Apple watches, we may be leading thousands of young people to disaster and we’re destabilizing an industrial sector that didn’t need that.

Constantly out on a limb, the tourism industry should maybe sort things out and rediscover its its fundamentals, hoteliers, accommodators, transporters.

Those who make the machines run and secure jobs that are more worthy of their ambitions…

Written by Josette Sicsic translated by Joséphine Foucher the 04/09/2015
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