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Exotic dancers and the tyranny of the status quo?

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Since 2012 ICA has been tracking the extraordinary debate happening in the UK about the ‘evils’ of self-employment. The debate was first ignited by the UK Trades Union movement. UK self-employment has doubled since 1975 to be now 15 per cent of the workforce (4.5 million people). Incredibly, UK unions say this is socially destructive.

Earlier this year a union-orientated think-tank, the Resolution Foundation, made similar claims

But there’s been plenty of counter-argument. Just last month, commentary in the UK’s Management Today said of the critics that they:
“…fear and despise the freedom and independence that working for yourself can bring.” “This (self-employment) leads to disruption and evolution.” However “…all across Europe, vested interests cling to their privileges, reflecting ‘the tyranny of the status quo’…”
We see this ‘tyranny of the status quo’ in the attacks against the taxi alternative, ‘Uber’, a service now spreading across developed economies. This commentator  sees Uber as the personification of the evils of capitalism. Funny, but it’s self-employed drivers who provide the Uber service.

The attack against self-employment is running strongly in the US under its expanding ‘misclassification’ laws. Legal concern about the status of US self-employed is widespread.

In Australia, our Tax Office maintains its self-employed suppression campaign. But in the UK, the Labor Party has floated an idea to resolve its ‘IR35’ tax problem.  This shows how politically important the sector has become.

However, let’s be clear. Self-employment is not a vehicle for businesses to ‘screw over’ workers. Self-employed people must have genuine control over their work situation. We agree with this case in New York where a court declared exotic dancers at a high-profile men’s club to be employees. The club exerted significant control over the women’s work. We’ve had similar complaints from women working in the sector in Australia.

But it’s interesting how socially progressive laws can sometimes be ‘on the money’ over the worker/self-control issue. Australian laws covering the ‘oldest profession’ make it an offence for anyone to control how a sex worker works. The Victorian legislation virtually declares sex-workers to be self-employed.

However, where work is more ‘mainstream’, there’s big resistance to self-employment. Again this shows that “…vested interests cling to their privileges, reflecting 'the tyranny of the status quo’…”
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