Gig economy: Uber launches on-demand jobs app ‘Works’

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Uber Technologies has launched a new app to put casual workers in touch with employers trying to fill vacant shifts.

The taxi-hailing tech giant, which has disrupted the taxi business model worldwide, says it has built tech solutions that can “help positively impact a workers’ shift experience and eliminate bottlenecks to finding work”.

Launching today in Chicago, workers registering on the Uber Works platform must complete an I-9 right-to-work form, undergo a background check, and pass skills assessments before they can qualify for more specialised roles. It is not known how soon the technology might arrive in the UK.

“We believe that finding work shouldn’t have to be a job in itself,” reads an Uber blog post.

“For positions as diverse as being a prep cook, warehouse worker, a commercial cleaner or event staff, Uber Works aims to make it easier to find and claim a shift.”

The service helps employers fill last-minute casual vacancies but can also assign workers for regular shifts on an ongoing basis: “Whether you’re looking for one or 100 workers, or if it’s last-minute or weeks away, we can help you find the right people to fill a shift,” reads the website.

Just like the ride-hailing app, the Uber Works platform includes the ability to leave feedback. The concept is not new. Freelancing platforms like Wonolo and Shiftgig are comparable and other platforms like Upwork offer a similar service for the professional sector.

But the widespread recognition of its brand could provide Uber with an advantage.

“Uber Works presents a real opportunity to help improve the quality and access of work through technology,” said the company. “For us, it’s clear we are just at the beginning of the journey. The Uber Works team is committed to the task ahead as we learn and explore how we can be a part of the solution.”

Significantly, unlike when Uber disrupted the taxi market, Uber Works says it is taking a “partnership approach”. It says it is collaborating with staffing agencies, including TrueBlue, one of the largest agencies in the US, who will “employ, pay and handle worker benefits”.

This strategy is likely to avoid some of the problems the company is facing as markets tighten regulations. The state of California last month passed legislation to recognise gig workers as employees, giving them more rights.

Uber Works says it is committed to delivering services that support “skill up-leveling” and people returning to work.

“As part of this effort,” reads the blog, “we are working to expand our educational partnership with [Arizona State University] to Uber Works so eligible workers on the platform can have access to online classes. We are also engaging with local Chicago organizations that can provide skills training.”

Patrick Beharelle, chief executive of TrueBlue, said: “TrueBlue has been driving digital disruption within the staffing industry with our JobStack and Affinix offerings, and our relationship with Uber Works is a component of that strategy.”

TrueBlue is the parent company of PeopleScout which last week launched the Affinix platform in Europe.

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