The Shadow Chancellor was speaking on a panel chaired by Co-operative Party General Secretary Claire McCarthy, at the ‘Open 2017’ conference in London earlier today. In his speech, he pledged that a future Labour government will fight the ‘Uberisation’ of the workplace by supporting a new generation of platform and tech co-ops.
He warned that while the so-called ‘platform economy’ – currently dominated by apps such as AirBnB and Uber – created huge opportunities, they also risked concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a small number of Silicon Valley investors, and eroding hard-won employment and consumer rights:
The power that these changes in technology give us all is the ability to pool our collective talents and skills and produce wealth not just for the benefit of a tiny handful at the top, but for all of us. It can help us mitigate the potential growth in the ‘Uberisation’ of the workplace.”
The solution, he argued would see government support to ensure that the next generation of platform technologies would be co-operatively, rather than privately owned. This would form a key part of the Labour frontbench’s existing pledge to double the size of the co-operative economy under a future Labour & Co-operative government:
The next Labour government will be completely committed to fixing our rigged economy and promoting the co-operative ownership of the wealth we produce, doubling the size of the co-operative sector. We’ll support the development of platform co-operatives instead of allowing new technologies to be exploited for the benefit of an elite few.
The new National Investment Bank and network of regional development banks will be tasked with supplying the funding to help support a new generation of co-operatively owned Ubers and Airbnbs.”
Under McDonnell’s plans, Labour’s proposed National Investment Bank (NIB), alongside a new network of regional development banks, will work to remove the barriers that currently prevent SMEs and co-operatives unable to access the finance they need to prosper – an area that Labour & Co-operative Party MPs have also been active on in recent months.
These new financial institutions will be explicitly mandated to provide funds to co-operative enterprises that promote innovative business models, including those social enterprises whose websites and apps are designed to minimise the costs of connecting producers with consumers in the transport, accommodation, cultural, catering and other important sectors of the British economy.