'Tonight, I’ll be eating spaghetti carbonara with fried onions and diced pancetta from Luigi’s Mansion in Fremantle. Ding-dong!’
Everybody has seen at least one of these spots for Uber Eats on TV. My favourite is Boy George’s, I laugh every time. The hand you see handing over the food at the end of the commercial belongs to one of Uber’s delivery drivers. Uber calls them their ‘partners’ (understand employees with no social benefits). This delivery driver is a worker of the gig economy.
Disclaimer here: I already picked on Uber in my second blog post Lessons we can learn from Blade Runner 2049. I’m using the example of Uber again because of the abundance of information available about the company. Unfortunately, most of it came to light following the numerous scandals Uber got themselves into.
What is the gig economy and how does it work?
The gig economy refers to a type of employment based on a succession of short-term contracts or projects. Most industries have been affected by it: transport, healthcare, hospitality, professional services, and even the public sector. Online platforms such as Uber, Airtasker or Airbnb have been a massive hit with consumers. And for good reasons. They're cheap, convenient and easy to use.
The main appeal of the gig economy is the false promise of flexibility. ‘Be your own boss’, ‘work when you want, as much as you want’, ‘unlimited earning potential’ blah blah blah. The 'flexibility' really is for the employer, not the worker. I got lured into this myself when I started working as a personal trainer in a big gym. But this story is for another day.
Uber's business model is an abomination
Most people probably ignore how Uber manages to offer transportation services so much cheaper than taxis. Uber’s business model relies on cutting costs and exploiting taxation loopholes as much as they can in order to slash their prices and kill all competition. All the risks and running costs are passed onto the drivers, who are hired as subcontractors.
Because gig workers are considered self-employed, they are not entitled to social benefits such as holiday or sick leave and superannuation. Workers are paid per ‘gig’, or job, no matter how long it takes them to do the task. Unions representation is a problem too, as the status of gig workers is a grey area that needs to be clearly defined.
On a platform like Airtasker, workers bid against each other to get jobs, most of the time based on the cost of the service provided. Which as a result brings the cost of labour significantly down as most of the time whoever is the cheapest gets the job. The result of this race to the bottom is that it keeps wages down.
Back to the future
Uber started to operate in Australia in late 2012 without any licence. To make things worse, thanks to a clever tax scheme, Uber is paying virtually no taxes in Australia. In 2015, Uber was legalised in all states except Northern Territory (it happened last year), and the Australian Taxation Office decided that all drivers should pay GST from the first dollar they earn. For the sake of comparison, if you had started your own business in 2012 without any licence and had paid the same amount of taxes that Uber did, you'd most likely be in prison by 2015. This is called a double standard.
Where the gig economy has been the most disruptive is in going backwards on decades of struggle for fair wages and workers’ rights and entitlements. An increasing number of companies are hiring people on a subcontractor employment basis so they don’t have to pay for entitlements such as holiday leave or superannuation. The gig economy is here and it's here to stay.
The government turned a blind eye because Uber was ‘creating’ jobs. Insecure and underpaid jobs. One of the government’s roles is to set the rules for its economy and to ensure workers are treated fairly. By failing to respond to the changes happening to the work place, the government is responsible for the precarious situation so many workers find themselves in.
Between the gig economy and the casualisation of work, full-time employment and the benefits that go with it may one day be a thing of the past. Ask yourself if this is what you want for your kids when they grow up. Remember that when you take an Uber or when you order food through Uber Eats, you are supporting their exploitative practices with your own money. So tonight, after you've read the usual bedtime story, tell your kids to start saving for retirement right now. Just in case.
Wether you decide to build your new home or renovate an old house, you will need the services of a professional builder. Building a home is a considerable commitment. The process can be long, stressful and expensive. This is why it is crucial that you take the time to choose the right builder that will make your dream house a reality.
Shortlist potential builders
Once you have decided where you are going to build your house, make a list of potential builders in the area where you intend to build your house. Make a list of builders who are experienced in your type of project. If you are renovating an old house, search for builders who are experienced in renovation projects. If you are building your home, search for builders who are experienced in building houses.
Expand your search to builders outside your area. Word of mouth and referrals are powerful tools when it comes to choosing a builder. Check their online websites and look at their portfolios. You can check online if a builder is registered via Housing Industry of Australia or the Master Builders of Australia.
You want to choose a builder who specialises in the type of house you want to build. Looking at current and past projects will help you determine if one builder is more suited for your project than another. For example, if you want a modern double-storey house, a builder who specialises in vintage single-storey homes may not be the best pick.
Share your vision
Once you have shortlisted potential builders, it is time to approach them with your project scope so they can give you a quote. Your project scope is what your vision is for the house you’re building. It is important that you give them detailed plans about what you want. Meet up with your architect, your potential builder and any other people involved in the project to make sure everybody is on the same page.
Write down all the questions you can think of and ask them to the builder when you meet up. Ask how long the project will take. Ask about the materials they use. High quality materials means a quality home.
Ask them if you can talk to their current clients. If they refuse, nothing prevents you from going in person and have a chat with people who had their house recently built by that same builder. Ask them if there have been any issues such as delays, extra costs or bad customer service. Were they happy with their overall experience with the builder and do they recommend them?
Get a comprehensive quote
The next step is to compare the quotes you get from the different builders you have approached. Make sure your builder gives you a comprehensive quote. If the quotes are similar in price, it means the price for your project is probably right. If a quote is significantly cheaper than the others, there might be a reason for that. The materials may not be the same or some items may not have included in the quote. Double and triple check.
The two things to pay attention to when you read a quote are prime costs and provisional sums.
Prime cost refers to specific items that will be required at a late stage in the building process such as lights, doors, fittings, taps or toilets. The builder should include an estimate of the price in the quote. They will most likely quote you for standard items. However, if you decide to go for high quality products, you will have to pay extra for the difference.
The best thing to do to avoid extra expenses is to give as many details as possible to the builders regarding what you have in mind for those items. If you already know the models or the brands you want, they will take this into account in their quotes.
Provisional sums are an estimate of the cost of materials and work that needs to be done. Builders are required by law to give you an accurate estimate for provisional sums. Even then, there can be unexpected circumstances that require the work to take more time than planned in the first place. One example is a soil that needs more work than the builder anticipated. In any case, it is best to leave a little bit of room in your budget for the unexpected.
Before you sign your building contract
There will be hurdles along the road. A good builder should work with you and offer solutions to any of the problems you encounter during the building process. They should always be available to answer your questions and give you updates. A lack of communication on their behalf is a red flag. Remember that as long as you haven’t signed your building contract, you can walk away at any time. Finally, always seek legal advice before signing your building contract.