While Uber faces legal battles over whether its drivers should be classified as employees or contractors, the tech company unveiled an unexpected new service on Wednesday: Uber Works.
An extension of the gig economy model that Uber arguably popularized with its original ride-hailing service, Uber Works will be an app that matches temporary workers with potential jobs and employers. The move seems provocative for Uber, which is currently pushing back against a pending California law that could reclassify on-demand workers like Uber’s drivers as employees. But with Uber Works the company says it is trying to “eliminate bottlenecks to finding work,” while outsourcing much of the employment details (pay, benefits, withholding taxes, and others) to staffing agencies its partnering with, like TrueBlue.
Uber Works will organize a worker’s shifts in one location as well as information like gross pay, work location and skills, and required attire. The app will also track pay and time-keeping, including breaks and clock in and out times. Uber says it vets all workers through an in-person screening process, and potential workers must undergo a background check.
“We believe a new, technology-first approach can provide faster and easier means for people to get work, while offering greater insight into the many opportunities for work that are out there—improving the experience for workers and businesses alike,” Uber said in a statement.
The new app is officially live in Chicago, where it began on a trial basis in about a year ago. Uber also conducted a beta test in Los Angeles before deciding to focus solely on the Chicago area, an Uber spokesperson told Fortune.
Despite Uber’s new take on temporary employment, Benjamin Sachs, Kestnbaum professor of labor and industry at Harvard Law School, says it’s more of the same.
“The connection between Uber Works and the ride-hailing side that I see is this massive company with intense tech resources fueling the degradation of work, rather than to make work meaningful,” Sachs told Fortune.
Sachs added that once again Uber is defaulting to billing itself as an app that connects people to work opportunities, rather than carrying the burden of being an employer.
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