TEU congratulates Dr Leon Salter who has been awarded funding through the MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship for research into the effects of the expansion of gig work on health and wellbeing in a post-pandemic economy.

The MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship is aimed at supporting excellent early career researchers impacted by Covid-19 in the New Zealand research science system. The Fellowship is a one-off initiative that will provide support of around $10 million over two years for 30 Fellows, and recognises that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have long-term adverse impacts on the Research, Science and Innovation workforce.

TEU member Dr Leon Salter is a tutor in both the School of English and Media Studies and School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing at Massey University | Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa. Working with Project Supervisor, Mohan Dutta, and Project Administrator, Breeze Mehta within Massey’s Centre for Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), and with support from FIRST Union Strategic Project Co-ordinator, Anita Rosentreter, Leon’s project aims to examine the effects on worker health and wellbeing from the expansion of ‘gig work’  – short-term, temporary or independent work - into the aged care, telecommunication services, and construction sectors.

CARE’s Culture-Centred Approach to research aims to bring workers together to devise bottom-up solutions to key issues, thereby helping to organise a fractured and atomised workforce.

According to Leon, fixed-term staff and TEU Massey Branch Committee member, there are many similarities between gig work and precarious academic work, making the research of interest and significance to not just those in the ‘gig economy’, but to all working people, and union members in particular.

‘The expansion of gig work is going to be a big challenge for unions in Aotearoa and across the world as unions are going to have to adapt their organising models. The old model of 9-5 permanent, location-based workers is going to decline.

In terms of organising it’s a difficult space as it needs to be worker-driven, but the nature of gig-work is isolating and atomising. There’s no staff rooms for classic style recruitment. And the ideologies of flexibility and entrepreneurship are very strong, meaning they often don’t want to be permanent employees and see each other as competitors rather than colleagues.

My research, with support from CARE and help from FIRST Union aims to shine a light on the experience of those in gig-work, but there is real knowledge to be gained from a union perspective’.