Uber, the giant of private transportation services by technological application, has begun the battle in public opinion against an eventual labor regulation in Mexico. The publication this week of a demographic study on the “flexibility” to which those who use the platform as a means of economic subsistence aspire is a strategy to influence citizens and designers of public policy —as it did in California, where it has its corporate headquarters— . The opinion poll comes at a time when the legislative and administrative batteries in Mexico are preparing to discuss and modify the working conditions of Uber drivers and delivery people and similar platforms.
With the conclusions of the survey, we want to implant the idea that drivers and delivery people prefer the “flexibility” of choosing hours and working hours over job security, as if “flexibility” and job security were opposites that cannot be enjoyed at the same time. weather. The study states that 90% of those who offer their working capital to the platforms “prefer to control their own schedule, even without benefits, to have a fixed schedule with more benefits” from questions in which the respondents are never mentioned which they are the benefits they are giving up in exchange for “flexibility”.
It may seem like a paradox that a company that bases its business on innovation wants to refuse to innovate in terms of labor protection, but it is precisely the contradiction that feeds Uber and other companies of the so-called “platform economy”: seeking profits based on the precariousness of the labor market. We know: Uber has prospered most in countries where labor laws fail to protect its workers.
The eventual labor regulation of Uber —and of the sector in general— will take place in a particularly challenging year for the company since it started operations in Mexico in 2013. In addition to the regulatory risks, Uber will be forced to react to the arrival of Lyft, its main competitor in the United States. Unlike DiDi or Beat, which also participate in the taxi market by application (transit network companies, in the official jargon influenced by the Uber lobby), Lyft has business and operating models similar to those of Uber and represents your most direct competition.
Beyond the possible medium-term benefits that the arrival of Lyft may bring to consumers, promoting lower prices or increasing the quality of services —or both, if we are lucky—, the improvement of working conditions for those who generate income through these companies can only occur through the regulatory framework.
It is urgent to change the law to incorporate and protect those who subsist through the platforms. In the federal Congress there are several initiatives to reform the Federal Labor Law and the head of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Luisa María Alcalde Luján, has expressed the need to change the status quo.
It is estimated that more than 500,000 people work for applications such as Uber, Rappi, DiDi, Cornershop and the like without job security: neither base salary nor social benefits; no sick leave, accident or maternity/paternity leave, no health insurance, no accident insurance, no retirement fund or housing. Nothing: them and their circumstance.
For Uber, in particular, trying to influence public policy makers will not be unprecedented. It has done it before to prevent state regulations that affect its business model in terms of competition —it participates in a market dominated by traditional taxis— and has managed to avoid the treasury so that the payment of tax contributions such as ISR falls on drivers and delivery people. Soon we will see an increase in prices for final consumers to save corporate accounting from the 2% tax that has just been approved in Mexico City for delivery and messaging platforms.
But now the challenge is different: the federal government has shown sensitivity in the labor issue by assuming commitments with the new North American trade agreement and combating the contractual simulation of subcontracting, outsourcing or outsourcing models. Uber’s public policy advisers know this, which is why they started the battle over public opinion by releasing their “flexibility” poll.
Do not be fooled: Uber is corporate propaganda to defend the model of exploitation and precariousness on which its business is based. Flexibility and job security can coexist. This battle is for the future and quality of life for drivers and delivery people.
Editor of El Economista online
Journalist. Since 2010 he edits the digital version of El Economista in Mexico City. Master in Transparency and Protection of Personal Data from the University of Guadalajara. He has a specialization in telecommunications and information technology law. His personal blog is Economicón.