Opinion: Gen Z blinded by easy 'gig' money to see they're exploited

As a 22-year-old Gen Z in the 21st Century, I like to say I have a pretty good handle on what is happening in the world (Brexit, Trump, the Kardashian/Jenner clan).

However, I have definitely been blinded to a major issue that we have all been tricked into believing is a good thing.

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This thing is called the gig economy. 

Mayday to all Gen Zers - this is not a drill. We are the next ones to be played with. 

The ​gig economy​ involves the hiring of freelance or temporary workers to perform jobs for a company. However, this is what “freelance” used to mean. It is now taken over and moved to different industries. ​Uber,​ a ride-hailing service, is a popular example of this. 

The appeal of the gig economy for the working class is one word, ease. You are your own boss. No one is calling you and asking why you’re an hour late for work, or having to wake up at ungodly hours. You make the time. You call the shots.  

Or so that's what it seems.

While the gig economy is painting this picture for us, it is painting over what it’s eliminating in the process. This being employees’ rights. Or any sort of protection and benefits. 

What they are hiding is what’s currently happening in ​Regina​. Employees of the Co-op Refinery Complex of Regina are facing changes to their pension plans (this is the money that employees will receive when they retire). According to the ​Refinery​, they are providing employees with a “fair” deal. This being: Allowing existing employees to keep their​ defined benefit plans​. They are guaranteed a specific amount when they retire.

This is based on their salary and how many years they have contributed to the company. New employees will be receiving a​ defined contribution plan​. Both the employer and employee invest a percentage which moves with the markets. This leaves employees in a guessing game of how much they will be receiving at the end. 

Source: Vancouver Courier

This story (and literally, the worst deal ever) is a part of a domino effect of what's to come. This is why. 

You may think that Regina is in the middle of nowhere, but this issue is hitting close to home, wherever you are. When all employees with defined benefit plans leave, there will be nothing left but defined contribution plans. This will be the new norm. Eventually, that will be gone too because employees don’t want the risk. 

This spirals to employees running towards the gig economy. Not only having a 9-5 job, but easily accessible work on your own time. Before you know it, employees from Refinery will be picking you up on weekends from the airport if you ever take a trip to Regina. That’s their pension money.

Since I was 18 years old, I have done my time in the gig economy and let me tell you, they have all been 0/10 experiences. While it’s fun to know you’re getting easy money, what you forget is the protection that you may need if something happens to you. Especially when you’re sexually harassed on the job. The last thing you would ever expect, but it happens. 

The process for this is short and simple: there is no formal process. You tell on someone that has no experience dealing with this matter. The event lingers. Everyone is uncomfortable. You eventually have to quit to save yourself any embarrassment and for your own safety. 

This is not only an old people problem, this is a Gen Z problem, too. We are the ones that will define whether this stays or goes. Or at least is modified to ensure safety and protection comes first. 

While it may be awesome to make money by literally doing nothing, this is not sustainable long-term. At all. What companies don’t want to tell you (and are probably laughing at you behind your back) is you don’t have power at all. You are essentially giving them more money to roll around in. 

Do your homework, rally the troops and ask for more from employers. That is what can be done. 

Let's not be blinded by accessibility and “easy money.” We are starting to lose our rights as employees.

Amrita Mohar is a fourth-year student at SFU Burnaby.

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