WorkerTech newsletter: August 2022

The latest update from Resolution Ventures


From postmen to parking attendants, drivers to dockworkers – many industries have been affected by strikes this summer over a variety of disputes about maintaining pay in the face of surging inflation. Strikes are a very visible and powerful way for workers to take collective action, but they aren’t the only means of bringing about change in the workplace. After a summer of industrial action, this month I’m taking a look at alternative forms of technology-enabled worker power.

If you’re interested in shaping content for future newsletters, I’d love to have some of our readers guest edit an edition. This newsletter has been running for more than a year and we have over 1,700 readers, so if you’re working on a WorkerTech initiative, or have a WorkerTech story to share, please get in touch!

Ventures Manager
Resolution Ventures

Tech-enabled collective action

Workers and unions are designing and using new forms of collective action that make the most of the power of technology: connection and communication; information sharing; and data analysis. Earlier this summer the TUC published a guide to tech and the workplace to ensure that tech enables people to create a better world of work.

While not a replacement for unions or better regulation around pay and conditions, with union membership much lower for private sector and low-paid workers, and the employment bill yet to progress in parliament, here are some new ideas that are complementing more traditional forms of worker power:

  • Worker owned businesses – platform co-operatives are owned and governed by their workers and users, with democratic decision making and accountability between the two stakeholder groups. Equal Care and The Drivers Co-operative are two examples of this alternative model where workers directly shape the business, and most importantly, their working conditions.
  • Data sharing – technology has allowed workers to share information about the quality of their jobs with huge numbers of people, and for organisations to aggregate this data to highlight best and worst practice across industries. Breakroom does this by collecting data from low-wage workers on a number of job quality indicators and rating employers accordingly. This has the effect of ‘naming and shaming’ poor employers while also giving workers the power to choose better quality jobs.
  • Digital campaigning – with not all workplaces being unionised, and some work falling outside of traditional employer – employee structures (think gig work, agency work, self employment), we’re seeing new ways of connecting and campaigning with other workers. Megaphone, a campaign platform set up by the TUC supports unions to campaign digitally, while Organise equips any individual worker with the tools and resources to build digital campaigns to change work for the better.

Do you know of any other new forms of worker power that are using tech in an innovative way? Get in touch! 

Latest insights from the Resolution Foundation

  • The new energy price cap coupled with rising cost of essentials and real-terms wage cuts will lead to a cost-of-living catastrophe this winter. Alongside our usual reports below that detail our analysis and policy recommendations, you can read the Resolution Foundation’s broader approach on how to tackle the crisis in the Financial Timesthe Guardian, and on Twitter.
  • A chilling crisis – a number of proposals are already on the table to tackle soaring energy costs, with mixed consequences for low-to-middle income households in the UK. This report outlines two more targeted options: a social tariff, or universal energy price reductions with rising taxes for those on higher incomes.
  • Cutting back to keep warm – why will low-income households have to cut back on spending three times as much as high-income households this winter? This research explains how energy-inefficient homes, pre-payment meters and less disposable income will all contribute for tighter budgets for low-income households.

WorkerTech stories

How are UK employers supporting employees with the cost of living crisis? Wagestream, in partnership with the Work Foundation, investigates low-paid workers’ financial wellbeing in the current economy in the State of Financial Wellbeing, and explores how employers can support workers through the crisis.

This month Sifted published alternative fundraising options when equity doesn’t suit. Covering debt, secured loans and revenue based financing, this is a good starting point for impact founders considering different funding models.

In the April 2022 edition I covered the Care Innovation Challenge, a hackathon to develop new ideas to use tech to improve the care sector. The finalists have now been announced with innovations covering care worker wellbeing, digital support for people receiving care and improved assessment procedures.

JFF published their 2021 impact report for the Employment Technology Fund, a USA based impact venture fund founded in 2017 to improve access to learning, employment and economic advancement for people in low-wage jobs. The report details how they have had a positive impact for 15 million people across 14 states in the US.

Get involved

  • Apply for direct investment from Resolution Ventures. We accept applications from WorkerTech ventures on a rolling basis. Or you can book a slot in our office hours for an initial conversation.
  • The Centre for Entrepreneurs are accepting applications to their NEF+ entrepreneurial leadership programme until Monday 5th September. Participants will develop skills and knowledge and connections to grow their businesses with mentoring and masterclasses from industry experts.
  • Reorganise: 15 stories of workers fighting back in the digital age – a book from Labour Together is launching on Thursday 1st September with experts coming together to discuss new models of worker power.
  • The Institute for the Future of Work is hosting a conference on wellbeing and the future of work on Monday 12th September as part of the Pissarides Review. The day will explore the latest research, policy and practice on how automation is transforming work, society and the economy.
  • Big Society Capital are hosting Addressing Imbalance Live on Tuesday 13th September, an interactive day of learning, discussion, networking and idea-sharing created for and by diverse leaders of charities, social enterprises, social investors and community groups.
  • The Oxford Internet Institute are hosting a Fairwork Summit on Wednesday 14th September to facilitate an exchange on the working conditions and labour standards on digital platforms around the world.
  • On Wednesday 21st September the Centre for Progressive Change are launching their campaign for safe sick pay with a virtual event. The event will explore people’s experiences of the current sick pay system, look at their new report that makes the case for change, and explore their plan for winning change that will make a difference to millions of lives.