the race to the bottom

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Disruptors? Don’t you just love ‘em. Giving us exactly what we want, when we want it, often without us even knowing we wanted it. And always cheaper. Mind, more often than not their premise is more ‘left’ field than ‘level-playing’ and last week’s unanimous supreme court ruling on gig-economy golden boy, Uber, could not have been more emphatic. However, my question is did it really have to take over four years to uphold the initial 2016 decision? For those interested here’s what I commented back then: Taxi, Taxi!

Notwithstanding the obvious need for any legitimate legal system to encompass the necessary checks and balances, Uber offered no new evidence whatsoever to support their protestation that it was simply an intermediary, a tech platform, facilitating the direct communication between partner-drivers and passengers. As before, the court ruled it was Uber, not the drivers, that set the fare, that all subsequent contract terms were predetermined by the company, and, once logged onto the company’s app, it was Uber that set the formal rules about accepting rides, monitored all customer communication and granted future access.

To my admittedly limited, simplistic legal mind (my law lecturer, David Crystal-Kirk, was banged-up for forty-two days after all!), Uber, by submitting nothing new, must have anticipated the initial decision, where the judges’ failed miserably in hiding their scorn of the company’s “faintly ridiculous twisted language & terminology”, was going to be upheld and I can only conclude they hoped for a slightly more sympathetic hearing the longer they dragged it out. A siege of attrition, no less. Or did they believe that now ‘Brexit’s done’ political shenanigans would come to their assistance?

This ruling, a vote for common decency, obviously has an impact beyond Uber and its workers, essentially throwing down the gauntlet concerning the wider workings of the on-call gig economy and zero-hours contract jobs. In 2019, Boris Johnson pledged to introduce an employment bill that would ensure “Britain was the best place in the world to work” but sadly that was the last anyone’s heard of it. It is vital that organisations do not consider themselves above the law wrt employment protections and tax liability but only last month the recently confirmed governmental review of post-Brexit employment law was scrapped. After resigning as labour market director, Matthew Taylor, publically stated the government’s enthusiasm for employee rights and protections has “waned, and waned, and waned”. With today’s figures showing an unemployment level of over 5% and over one million self-employed being without work, we remain at a society-defining crossroads and the signs aren’t all pointing in the right direction.

As well as predicting yet another imminent Boris U-turn here’s one or two more sure-fire slam-dunks for the coming year:

After an exciting year in which every almost-famous person on the planet has their own online podcast, an immersive product will be launched under the auspices of ‘just going out for a walk and listening to things you can hear, including birdsong, the wind in the trees and perhaps even your own thoughts’. Obviously it won’t inform you of the time Alan Carr was interviewed by Louis Theroux and he recalled Rob Brydon walking-in on Peter Crouch putting one past Jack Whitehall’s father, but you can’t have it all.

Starship Commander, Elon Musk, continues to invest in Bitcoin and confirms that neither Tesla nor the cryptocurrency will definitely not collapse. He also states the current Pope is definitely not Catholic and that bears will definitely not be having another sh*t in the woods.

The former Prince Charming and his fairy bride, Meghan Le Fay, will name their second child Sue if it’s a girl and Rich if it’s a boy. Post birth, Meghan Le Fay, Princess of La-La State, enters politics, running as the first female president of Yankie Doodle-Dandy Land.

Both the Olympics and the Tour De France go ahead as planned and neither event has any dopers participating. Probably.