Can't pay? Don't play: New ethical models of digital business

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Can't pay? Don't play: New ethical models of digital business
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Reactions are emerging to online economic disparity. Cooperatively-run startups and new forms of the mutual society may be an answer to exploitative digital business models. Social surges like the freelancers' rights movement are building real world political pressure. Companies that don't pay will be told they can't be in business.
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without the circuit and he would try to get the clicker working but I can just do without as far at the the riots hello everybody minus child alright I come from Australia but I leave here in Berlin monitor presented English if it's OK for you alright so this as a look familiar the yeah that's what you so when you arrived here at Republican today a a few days ago so you're greeted by some smiling people
who took you take it and they get you a badge and it took your coats and they're running around today with teachers uncles a helping hand all those people are working for free the today when you while you hear Republican it probably falling water
Twitter handles like 2 speakers like me at told all really but also brands and organizations that you're interested in and a lot of those tweets you're reading a written
by people who work working for free right now you probably load onto europe had so you've been reading news articles throughout the day on blogs and news organizations a lot of those these articles are written by people who work for free I bet that you're involved in a company or a business or organization or some kind of project and I've been in the last couple of months you've been involved in a discussion about how to get this project finished and somebody that conversation probably say these words payments
that in turn they can do it for free although very little money without sick pay without holidays without retiree contributions without any kind of security so my question to you all is do you think this is sustainable because I argue that it is not there's a social reaction brewing to this explosion of lower no pay work the and pretty soon businesses that can't pay will be told don't play so that I would only
do is told you about the problems of the growth of the lower node pair work industry I'll introduce you to some of those reactions that are already forming as people wake up to this problem and proposed solutions are all we can do to
fix a broken self-employment system and also ladies and lots of points about what you can you can decide whether or not you ever should work for free or whether you as an organization that can and should take on workers who are paid because there are some cases where it might be all right so to work free but we do have some guidelines about that so that wire publicly might be off the hook you don't have to cut off my microphone just yet the was was a probably would dealing with the problem is that in the last couple of years as an explosion in the culture free word businesses 1 normal people to work for less and
less offer nothing at all preferably the and so we this of course is always been an issue in in the creative and sector and what we've seen musicians they've always had a sing for their supper and artists throwers below the paid but it's gone beyond the creative sector to the media production industry and from there to every kind of profit-seeking businesses as part of most businesses growth strategy these days to take on in terms i conferences like this creative projects that they build into their budgets it's just it's just expected but and and we see at the start ups which are funded by large VC deals but they're actually staffed by armies of interns the so that 1 step above the in terms of freelancers freelancers of free in their job title uh but thankfully there actually paid something most of the time but is usually not enough to help them with term planning and long-term security things like retirement healthcare sick pay so the things from freelance which is usually can't accommodate so we know that but 9 million freelancers in Europe the money which is roughly around 5 % of the workforce as growing all the time or more people becoming freelancers 1 way or another as moving from the traditional sectors the you know it in you know the creative industries in guy across every industry wouldn't teachers and medical staff all sorts of industries that use not have freelancers suddenly finding themselves and you becoming freelancers the will there there is a consequence for this what what what I would call rampant discarding of responsibility by employers and the consequences of being borne by the individuals themselves I was saying just like in broader society missing a winding of inequality within organizations so you've got you go workers who are paid well or at least easily sitting right beside people who doing similar jobs with little or nothing and certainly without any kind of long-term benefits or security
and the individuals who are affected by this once again have to carry the burden and and Avery told you about that retirement health care of those things but it gets a bit more dire than that last you
so the example of a young German man who exhausted himself to death while working as an intern at the Bank of America in London it the and up until now and you might think that your in jobs is secure that your industry secure but but this is the most affecting every industry and even more so when digitization automation start taking off as Tyler Cowen argued in his recent book we're about to see society stratified into an upper class of technological well-paid elites and a massive useless left behind so now interestingly his suggestion is for strive to become 1 of those elite or to make sure that your kids are by learning to cover all preferably would would prefer to see uh so some kind of reorganization of society to make sure that we don't leave any anybody body behind in the 1st place but let's see if we can do that why was the reaction to
all of this will you might be surprised to learn that in these apathetic times and despite the years of being told that we're all individuals despite a dramatic decline in the credibility of trade unions and despite mystical itself a suggestion that we'll to just take care of
ourselves there are some people who are coming together to challenge businesses and governments that allow these conditions to exist and I'll introduce you today to a few of those movements of all and campaigns that are actually trying to make a bit of a difference and the 1st is in the sphere of the interns so is there a refusal trend done work for free people being told that they should give their time free and this is the mean that spreading a lot
lately we see a lot of internet um campaigns were Facebook campaigns carrying this mean blog posts have been written about it people sharing these really great by term Bg but philly professional e-mail templates you can copy paste and send somebody a fast do work for free and is in great videos on the topic as well this was my favorite it
comes from Italy and it features a flamboyant creative of media type and he's telling a plumber who just fix the toilet that or I'm sorry there's the budget for this project and add the hashtag of the bottom is freelancer yes idiot node so it
doesn't really do much good just-say-no when there's thousands of other in turns out there willing to take you place it just makes the bosses and 1 more e-mail but what we're also seeing is in turns getting coordinated to actually impact the
businesses negatively affecting them sourcing intern coordination such as campaigns like this 1 is in turns away from the UK as many campaigns similar to and then naming and shaming organizations that are exploiting the workers not just putting public pressure but actually legal pressure as well it has been able to successfully sue companies that had to them in the past as unpaid laborers because in many countries where is the minimum wage is actually illegal to have an unpaid work even if that worker agrees to work you for free and it's it's been the case in the US and the UK the intensive successfully sued companies for back wages which is fantastic we here in Germany you're about to get a minimum wage and I really hope that we start seeing companies here soon as well for the use of legal unpaid work is if it comes to that so for those governing the copies you that social pressure this is from London this is an art house cinema in central London the got shut
down by its workers is the the cinema of refused to pay a living wage studies of social pressure on the streets which is great and also boycotts the top shop
in the UK is a popular fashion chain and the boss of top shop recently made some rather offensive comments about an intern who dared to ask to be paid he said she's spoilt it for everybody presumably he meant his useful to for me because my profits can increase anymore so people please don't shop at top shop at the from the UK ago there that that was less less teachers analysis now I think it is the more this kind of naming and shaming of businesses and and I what if I use your business using free label watch out you might your name might end up in the public domain being named and shamed exporting you workers and also have defined other day I think this is another example this
from Germany actually this happen a couple weeks ago the very respected transmedia conference um interns working transmedia poster these letters around the conference venue and a letter details and a pretty terrible conditions of there be expected to work under the uh it's is basically telling somebody thought they had a full time job that they're only getting paid 135 euros a month and that's pretty embarrassing so I think it's fantastic that was seeing this and by the way transmedia layer is publicly funded so maybe wish to start thinking about having some kind of rules about public-funded organizations are anybody takes public money not being allowed to have exploitative work practices in the 1st place
were also saying at international
coordination is so this is the website site of the International Coalition for Fair internships and these different organizations in campaigns in different countries a getting together now and swapping tactics which is great that so that stretches from Canada to Australia to to Europe to the US I hope we see more of this so that's intense the 1 freelancers what are we
doing to try and get a better deal out of business and governments well I'm glad you asked because I happen to be involved in the European freelancers campaign as a way to share with you and this is a pan European effort to bring together a lot of our organizations in European countries that are currently um building pressure on the ground in
their own local area so for example we have on the fold is the which is the German freelancers associations
the bonds to groom themselves then in bushland but now the fog the has graph but 2 years is still quite a small organization but it has actually already managed to sit down with government ministers and explain to them why the policies so bad for your answers um so if you're a German freelancer please join this organization across Europe 5 euros a month and it's a great investment in a term improvement in the freelance working environment so the civil organizations like this in the UK in the Netherlands Italy and in France and is a couple in Spain as well and now are all getting together on the European level to coordinate and and to try and pressure the government on an EU level because of got the European elections coming up as we go this is
a great chance to send a message to parliamentarians to let them know that we here that we're coordinated demographic and we have to be taken seriously please and to that end we set up an online campaigns as what we're currently doing we've got a web server running at the freelancers dashed
europe . org and while I'm talking please feel free to get your laptops all your photons and internet and freelancers gesture at all and add your name to support our cause you'll find that we have a 5 . manifest that we wanna sense to
politicians and I'll walk you right now through those those 5 manifesto point the 1st demand is recognized freelancers so
we want government bureaucrats to recognize this is a category of worker in is category of business because often we don't exist when you come to fill out a form you're you there's no box you get sick uh we fall between the cracks were in a gray zone nobody really knows about us those are needs we wanna be recognized as a distinct category and have these understood um and we would be remembered when policy is created that affects us once were were recognized will access this access to government uh services and funding so for example there are many programs that run by the EU that you can only apply for if your business or nonprofit organization we think that's unfair because freelancers should also be able to apply for
projects or offer picture funding and should be and access services like uh the retraining program the EU has a huge budget for retraining and a lot of companies and their workers to retraining programs and there we get reimbursed partially by the EU but freelancers can't do that that's unfair we should be able to have access to the same services count us we want reliable statistics about
how many freelancers are actually that 9 million figure that I told you before that is an estimation that freelancers organizations themselves had to come up with a conscience than dada because there are no reliable statistics in many countries fail to actually collect statistics about indepen workers um all the correct the collected in a strange way so we just want better statistics we wouldn't have any of us are we want studies and surveys and censuses done to actually understand us a democratic graphic because it don't get counted you don't count give us a voice we want um we want governments to sit down with us whenever they draft policy and talk to a representative organization we won a seat at the table just like when they have a policy Belgo after the trade unions what they think of it and I'll go and ask the big businesses what they think of the new policy will they should come to freelancers as well as they what you is policy how gonna affect user gives a voice give a seat at the table and finally treated fairly this 1 is more aimed at governments as I businesses rather government
we want businesses to write that their contracts and pay time so those are 5 demands recognizes give us access count us to give us a voice treat us fairly the quite simple demands and a
quot achievable demands and you might also notice and that they don't include some of the to the really big questions like retirement and health care and that's for a reason the reason is that we're targeting EU politicians with this particular campaign and many of those really tough issues are actually sort of at a national level so it'll be up to national organizations like the foggiest the to campaign on those issues within their own borders of course the movement across Europe will support each of those organizations that will come up with a model legislation that we can hopefully get spread across Europe and will come up with strategies to get those things implemented
and but for this particular campaign were focusing on these 5 demands and we need 10 thousand people support us so that we can actually go to Brussels and say we're here where demographic needs to be taken seriously and I would guess some genuinely good ideas about how we can fix uh the employment system but beyond this demands what we're really doing here is we're building a network where we're creating uh the groundwork for an ongoing larger or modern so organization but that's only a network of individuals and organizations so that in the future if we ever have a problem if ever we find out of some kind of
law that is introduced we can easily spree network and action send messages throughout
channels and I get that low shut down but you know what beyond is reacting the laws
or reacting to the current situation we can also do is dream up our own
solutions about how we can improve things we can come up with our own ideas and put them in place without even waiting for anybody to help us out sort overview of solutions the possible the so is that we but a bit of
inspiration from sour Horowitz now ours is the founder of the freelancers union in the US which is a very strong organization it's not actually union despite what its name and sounds like it is a nonprofit organization but does a great job of providing services to its members and and aha which is a big a big believer what she calls new
mutualism and by that she means a revival of an old-fashioned idea that existed in the 18 hundreds and early 19 hundreds
called the mutual society now the of society was an organization set up by individuals who paid a little bit of money each month and they got support services as a result some mutual societies would provide things like health support for their members so you could go guns in a mutual society doctor you new family has funeral services because funeral costs used to be a big burden for people and so they would pay for somebody's funeral or unemployment support when you're when you had hard times ahead building societies so that they could build affordable housing for the members what happened the all of them were wiped out by the laws of the 20th century and a lot of them became obsolete as social democratic government started ringing in welfare systems and and public housing and public and health care and now is a good thing but now we're back full circle to a period where the government is in full retreat the welfare state is being eroded big businesses in charge of all of this and so it's not going to change anytime soon and we have a lot of individuals who are living without support so what should we do well I like horses idea of going back to to these old-fashioned ideas of mutual societies we we can actually create their own support structures and help each other out and worries dying to see some of this occurred in Europe I just found out about someone 1 organizational smart EU they kind of Belgium and and I was started by a bunch of artists in
Belgium and so that they are uh nonprofit organization in a chart a a kind of uh mutual cooperative across Europe for for for freelancers self-employed negative provide collective services and 1 of the services that providing is a mutual guarantee fund where you pay a little bit in with every invoice and if ever 1 of your invoices bounces ever somebody fails to pay you which is a big problem for freelancers will the mutual guarantee fund is gonna pay your you the money at your own it and they will use its own internal debt collection society to go after the person is felt to pay which is a great a great idea so I haven't really had a chance to fully investigate this whole set strategy but the weather is this organization or another 1 we are going to see more this emerging these ideas in mutual support organizations we should build them if they don't exist or cooperatives cooperation another
great vehicle freelancers can use them to to support each other and and and as a few interesting
examples in a cooperative of course ensure Ural where our our businesses run and owned by the workers so it's a great way for freelancers to come together pool their resources and help each other out so here in Berlin we got to really good examples of corporate is what is called functional aspects 6 it's a designer creative design agency digital agency and you can
find sitting at their house anything goes hello if you like um functionalists medics was thought about 2 freelancers and now was expanded to many more and they pitch for clients collectively so making a bigger projects that would be a which individually and they also offer each other support services like administration and billing and um and invoicing they do their services collectively they also have a very interesting um proposal about having some kind of wage leveling so that the highest paid freelancer is not pay quite as much as they normally would be the lowest paid a little bit more so really egalitarian idea if you're um if your forward-thinking egalitarian freelancer please think of joining all or starting an organization similar to functional esthetics another great example of a cooperative is an awfully which I'm sure some of you are aware of its based here in Berlin it's the based on market place it's a cooperative you can become a member by paying
50 euros a month and I give you a vote at the ATM and the share of dividends now fed up with going through some hard times at the moment and I had to ask some of their full-time staff to become freelancers but at least those
freelancers retain their cooperative membership so things pick up they still stand to benefit which is more than you can say for most freelancers interns working at the start of this is why I believe cooperatives were father solution so 1 problem with the
cooperative or several problems effects especially here in Germany is they're quite hard to set up that a lot of paperwork involved a lot of a lot of bureaucracy and and it's actually really difficult to get a cooperative off the ground here in Germany and so that it's very difficult to get any funding if you're kroppen because investors don't like them very much um so what I would like to see is the development of new business models that combine the the
entrepeneurial incentive of again be how and the fairness of a cooperative so for example functionalist metrics the reagents yet talked about before that
that's again the higher that is one-third owned by its founders offered by investors and is apportioned set aside for people who set up branch operations in different cities I would like to see the freelancers and the workers themselves also
reserved a portion of the company the actual ownership of the company but what about this 1 that uses the the users of online platforms were given a share in the companies in the platforms that they actually use every day this is especially relevant for things like Collaborative consumption platforms the sharing economy with the explosion in these types of websites we also have a lot of the
job websites for freelancers we can go and get you know uh a translation job we getting paid a couple euros for each 1 of these these of these freelance job market places all these types of platforms can and should reserve a share for the users those of us talk about ah a freelance job platform imagine if every time you transacted a job over 1 of those platforms you add a tiny share that platform that way you would normally be
exploited by the platform which by the way all they're doing is driving down wages to match freelance wages in developing countries you would just be exploited by but you actually benefit from its existence and you'd be more likely to actually want users so the idea of giving away share to users is something that I think we'll see in the next few years I think is a really smart thing for a website to do because it retains loyalty it would make people more likely they are to come back and continue using your website but the so I wanna
give credit to farmers Zachary Adam Green who actually came up with this idea and blogged about it at folic being a . net late last year he said it makes absolutely no sense that these job finding platforms and not at the very
least cooperatively owned enterprises and I would agree so
we talked about problem of free work was
seen some of the reactions freelancers and in terms of getting organized with his of solutions mutual societies and new models of cooperatives and businesses
but let's go back to where we all started this whole discussion with let us have a chat about when is it OK to work for free because there may be
some circumstances where you organization really can't afford a paid staff and you as an individual have decide whether or not you are going to give you time to that organization so this was a so so this is my proposals about when it might be OK to work for free
as I carried away for free when you get something out of it so all the helping hands here Republica getting free tickets to Republic of for the sound of an or working and had a chat to a few of them and they told me that I think it's a pretty good deal for the happy with that exchange so it is yet should get genuine valuable goods and services are you time there might be a tad work for free as I can allow for free when the company has total transparency free seeking companies should be forced to publish their accounts publicly everybody should know how much everyone from the CEO down is getting paid in that organization because an intern everybody knows how much he intends getting paid it was only fair that the intent not how much the CEO never also becoming is paid to so they can make an educated decision about whether to give their time to that organization so many go to even
try and its it's also announced you work for free turn around ask them how much you getting paid and how much is your boss getting paid and where the profits going and maybe once you've heard their reaction you can judge whether or not you think that organizations with your time given ago please enough to results about what how how that works out the at least make a few people embarrassed so maybe I'll change things it's OK for free if the
organization you working for gives you share real shares valuable shares sentence shares also OK but as long as their view no link to actual real value in the company or that organization becomes a cooperative and you become a part owner of that actual structure no why should company this all my argument is that if you can't afford to pay your staff you not a
business yeah have a business model so quick pretending to be a business I become some kind of worker around enterprise instead now I don't think it's OK to this sort of all of us suggestions are are merely suggestions of the dependent on the goodwill of
people I think they should be enforced by law and that's why we need a coordinated organized effort of freelancers and we need to come together find collective goals create effective campaigns and send a message to businesses businesses and governments now messages copay don't play now I should point out that all of these suggestions that making I'm not the um that not the agenda of the european freelancers movement
at the moment in my personal opinions the freelancers movement is working on Goals of a decided between the organizations and its future direction is going to be shared democratically by everybody involved in it but I personally hope that freelance an intense seize the opportunity to radically reshape the business of working environment because it's a long businesses that proving themselves greedy and of improving of that to you know exploits and governments have proven that the that governments have proven
that that have a clue about the realities of working in a flexible work well so that to ask the coordinated freelancers in in terms of Europe to get together and tell them how to fix the problems and build solutions together when they failed to so thank you very much it it of the you for this forwards and I think there's some reflect on but do because you stole 5 roots in the beginning we would like to add 5 minutes think all and marry somebody wants to open his mind and to you have a question or statement please come over here for the camera can put you really would like also and uh yeah 5 more minutes and think you draw orders and the the and thanks for the lecture itself very interesting and the question is do we have to think about automization that there's from many
work done by machines now that has been done by humans have and as a consequence of it that we are doing all in the service industry like broken nurseries cutting hair things that you want humans to do this work that remains or consultancy and things which are based on 4 trust on things like that and doesn't mean that this remaining work for the humans is less about because many people doing it we basically don't need them so in Europe received lots of young people they are not needed and what on you definitely right we're going to see automation affect a lot of industries a lot of people who previously thought
they worked insecure environments and secure jobs unifying that's not the case at all and using predictions that that's affect everything from the legal industry down in that really high-paid industries again and again to be affected by this
um and those people you suddenly find themselves in a precarious position and which is you make it even more necessary for us to completely rethink the idea of our our citizenship and interaction in society I think we need to decouple the idea of social benefits the idea of of of what the welfare of its the social security benefits you receive is this is there has to be decoupled from the fixed working contract like it is now and it should float around a fall you between jobs so no matter how you and money you should be other contribute to to to society and whenever you had a hard time you should be able to get support for that no matter whether a freelancer worker and it when you get rid this idea that only people who work in certain conditions get benefits and other people who work in different editions done with it should be just level everyone works ever contributes everyone to get support and as for automation having it's it's going to be a big problem is that of force all of us to really ask about questions and and people have suggested that have things like the um the minimum basic income citizens in chemical and I'm common might become a goal for something of the for the freelancers movement well I I personally think that could that could happen it could end up being 1 of our our platforms but that's a little bit down the track so this is where we're the ones currently
experiencing what the majority of people experience in a few years time so that we're doing the thinking about this now but uh I'm pretty sure that the rest of society can have to catch up and join us rethinking the way all these systems work 1 more question anyway so you'll have to do some hard thinking of and and police was website realizes that your all please sign about by little 5 point manifesto states couple seconds and and you'll be supporting freelancers trying to reshape society for the linkage old thank you for and not