Is We-Guild 'letting the employer off the hook'?
One legitimate concern that some people have raised about We-Guild, is whether it will be helping the so-called gig-economy businesses (or others) more easily externalise one of the costs of having their workforce under employee terms (the cost in question being that of providing for sick-pay). In plain terms, this means whether We-Guild would be 'letting the employer off the hook' of such responsibility and allowing them to increase their profits as a result.
We will approach this question first from the point of view of the situation we are in right now: the reality that there is a serious amount of people working who are doing so without sick-pay protection. As such, we can start by stating that our first aim is to solve this problem as it is at this very moment. We understand that this can be considered patch-work, but there is a difference between curing and preventing. People need their most urgent needs met before they can be effective agents of change. As such, We-Guild’s main role is that of enabling self-employed people to have sick-pay protection; now.
However, we acknowledge that there are situations where the short-term solution could impede the long-term one. Were We-Guild to become big enough, we could be dealing with a potential normalisation in people’s minds of a different way of thinking about who is supposed to cover for the expense of sick-pay. We-Guild is proposing a sick-pay cover that is provided by the individual’s community, as opposed to being provided by the individual’s government, employer or not provided at all (which in effect would be the individual’s own pocket). Such a method somehow becoming the norm could shift people’s perception of who should be paying for such an expense. This could have further negative effects for society as a whole as gig-economy companies (or even some others too) could further capitalise on such a shift and increase their profits while being even less questioned for it than they are now. To stop this long-term potentiality from happening, as well as to do its little grain of sand to help the situation at the moment, We-Guild attempts to:
Actively cooperate with organisations that are currently putting a legal fight for the recognition of gig-economy workers’ right to sick-pay and other employment benefits.
Raise awareness among We-Guild users of alternative non-exploitative and democratically owned and run platforms (workers co-ops) offering similar services to the current gig-economy ones.
Help facilitate the setting up of such enterprises in case there are none for a specific field in whichever way possible.
Become a workers co-op itself with gradually increasing involvement of its users and abide by and promote the principles of Open Cooperativism.
Any other things that you may suggest and that we may not have thought of!
As a final word, We-Guild is aware that some may think that such maneuvers could have some effect on We-Guild’s running finances. To this we say that We-Guild is a non-for-profit endeavour which, as much as it aims to be financially sustainable, keeps an eye on the wider picture and therefore deems such concerns short-sighted: they fail to take into account the many other types of wealth which jointly form the backbone of the thriving communities and societies that We-Guild wants to help maintain and grow.
Guillermo Justel Orellana