In a waiting room, having nothing better to do than read news items on my phone, this one appeared:
- Australian business leaders expect nearly a third of their workforce will be temporary workers within four years’ time.
Indeed most of them (90 per cent) are already hiring contractors from online job platforms like Freelancer and Airtasker.
But pivoting towards the gig economy also brings along teething problems.
According to a global survey of business leaders by recruitment firm Robert Half, the biggest concern about hiring contractors is that there is no guarantee of the standard of work (41 per cent).
Second on the list of employers’ concerns is a lack of an alignment or understanding of the company (38 per cent), and concerns over contractors’ eligibility to work (37 per cent).
Employers also feel unclear about expectations of contractors’ service (28 per cent), and some hold the perception that contractors are only freelancing because they can’t find a permanent job (28 per cent).
We have just had our NBN installed. In the lead up, all the calls were from our provider, which happens to be Telstra. While the technician was working, and we chatted as you do, I asked him who he worked for. As I suspected, it was neither Telstra nor NBN. However, he works on nothing but cables for the NBN and Telstra. He’s been doing it for decades, first for Telstra as an employee, then when he was made redundant, he started the very next week with a private firm doing exactly the same work for Telstra.
So he joined the gig economy where now he gets paid piece-work rather than a wage, at not bad rates – $97 per installation, which takes 15 minutes on the Telstra jobs, and about an hour on average on NBN work.
He said he did not know until he got up each morning what his jobs for the day were. Yesterday morning he had three. We were third, and he arrived about midday. He said you can live quite nicely on three, finishing work and home early in the afternoon after travel time. However, during the morning he had been offered two more, of which he had taken one.
Apparently, he’s programmed by a bot.
So I asked him, how come Telstra could tell me a week ago a technician would come. There must be spare capacity in the system. He said no.
So I said, that means sometimes there would be a no-show. Absolutely correct, he said.
But it went further than that. He said some people do eight or more installations per day. I suggested they may be cutting corners or doing sloppy work.
Correct again. There is an audit, but it’s only a small percentage, and some are willing to take the risk.
Prior to his coming, my wife had bought and installed a new power board to rationalise and tidy the forest of cords and wires, screwing it onto the wall and sorting everything out, as she does. Somehow that made us lose our local wifi.
It was beyond the technician’s brief to look at what was wrong, his brief was to see that the signal reached the modem and that the modem was working, which he tested with his $8,000 machine. Nevertheless, he was a helpful chappie, and agreed to take a look. Turns out there was an off button on the back of the modem, which my wife had accidentally turned off in moving the modem. Then he told a story of a woman who had been visited by techs four times without having a problem fixed. Finally, a tech came who actually looked at the back of the modem where he found a cable in the wrong slot. He had an endless fund of similar stories.
Before he left I asked whether we could contact him if subsequently there were problems. Of course the answer was “no”. We need to contact Telstra, who would contact the NBN, who would contact one of the firms they had on their books. All handled by bots.
As I posted in December 2017, It’s all John Howard’s fault.
There I summarised Mike Seccombe’s brilliant article on the topic in the Saturday Paper.
- When we think of worst prime ministers, the completely useless Bill (Sir William) McMahon comes to mind, followed by the negative, sloganeering bully Tony Abbott. However, if you are looking for a PM who did actual damage to the country’s economic and social fabric it’s hard to go past John Winston Howard.
- Examine almost any contemporary political problem, from Australia’s growing economic inequality to the declining performance of our school students relative to the rest of the world, to our dying coral reefs, and you will find the fingerprints of John Winston Howard.
He said that Howard was the most right-wing PM we’ve had, and was very effective in a negative sense. I gave his list of reasons, finally:
- he tipped the balance in industrial relations in favour of the bosses. In a way it was emblematic of how Howard saw human nature and the human condition. Every person was a business centre, responsible for their own future, capable of transacting to their benefit with all other business entities. The gig economy became embedded in our work culture, making it difficult for people to construct a life.
However, I suspect history will tell that Howard is about to lose his crown to the prime minister the Australian people have just elected, the inimitable ScoMo – Scott Morrison. Correction, it was actually Queensland who inflicted him on the rest of the country as well as on themselves. Leaving aside Queensland, Labor under Shorten had a handsome victory: 62 out of 121 seats, to the LNP’s 54. Being taken for suckers by Clive Palmer is no excuse.
For that I am deeply sorry.