The Workers’ Observatory is an Edinburgh-based project to monitor new forms of work in the city and develop tools and tactics to take advantage of them.
Delivery riders, distribution drivers, care workers and app-based workers are everywhere. We see Edinburgh at work and we see it sleeping. We built the Workers’ Observatory to watch the city together, to collectively challenge conditions in self-employed and gig work, and to take control of our labour.
Companies use data and digital technologies to see everything from above: they want to create a panopticon. The Workers’ Observatory is a subopticon to share perspectives from below.
Corporate programmes and platforms are gathering unfathomable amounts of data about workers’ every move and using it to control and change the way that work is organised.
Meanwhile the COVID-19 crisis has increased the scramble for profit and intensified the evolution of working practices. The prevalence of gig work, self-employment, and casual work are all increasing. The Workers Observatory will equip on-the-ground surveillance of these changing realities.
It is a project led by workers, and involves members of STUC-affiliated unions as well the IWGB and IWW. It is supported by the Edinburgh Futures Institute at the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Trades Union Congress. It is coordinated by Cailean Gallagher, STUC campaigns officer, and its research agenda is supported by Karen Gregory, Lecturer in Digital Sociology at the University of Edinburgh.
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