There is an important debate to be had around defining the “Sharing Economy”. The term has become closely associated with companies such as TaskRabbit, AirbnB and Uber, which operate by providing platforms for people to rent-out, or rent, resources such as cars or spare rooms. This, the argument goes, opens up under-utilised resources to consumers, and provides flexibility and autonomy, access to the labour market and greater earning potential to workers.
Sharing platforms such as Uber, however, are legally structured as companies owned by investors and run for profit, sometimes extraordinarily successfully so. Uber, for example, was recently valued at $50 billion. This has led to charges that such companies operate through exploiting workers, who often receive less than minimum wage without any benefits or job-security. Traditional models where minimum wages and other benefits are ensured are also undermined, such as taxi companies and hotel companies.
Join us to discuss whether the “Sharing Economy” may require more than the sharing of private resources – whether it requires the sharing of power. Uber et al. operate their platforms using the legal structure of the currently dominant company model, where power is centralised in investor owners. Does the sharing economy require a legal structure which ensures decentralised power, such as in the cooperative company model? Should platforms be owned and governed by the people who rely on them, rather than by investors? What would the social, environmental and economic consequences be of such a move?
Is there a case for Platform Cooperativism?
Professor Bronwen Morgan – Australian Research Council Future Fellow
Angela Perry – Chair of Employee Ownership Australia
Michelle Maloney – Co-founder & National Convenor of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance
Les Cameron – Founding member of the Goulburn Valley Food Co-op
MC Brendan Sydes – CEO of Environmental Justice Australia