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Your employer is using you, but you are afraid to act because you need the money. Learn ways to identify and prevent exploitation.
“Raise! KMT u mad!! me naaah geem not eebin one deggeh deggeh dalla! If a more money him a wait pan, him cyah gwaan! A nuff out deh desperate fi a work inuh, some we all work for free a hope me pay dem later. Ha-ha… ha-ha”
What if you heard your boss say this behind your back? How would you feel? What if I told you many employers are exploiting people who are desperate for a job? Exploitation is to unfairly use others for one’s own advantage. Desperation can be seen as a vulnerability to an employer, and vulnerable employees are easier to manipulate.
Why Do Some Employers Exploit the Vulnerable?
It’s very common for developed countries to exploit the poor from developing countries for cheap labour. Some businesses will employ underprivileged foreigners, and pay them very low wages. These companies will source their labour from third world countries that need additional employment opportunities. Some foreign employers will mainly employ undocumented residents abroad, so they can exploit them by paying little to nothing in wages. It’s a real shame when people who want to make an honest living are met with exploitation, it’s terrible. What’s more appalling is that some Jamaican employers are exploiting their fellow citizens.
If you are thinking that one could never be in such a situation, then you never heard the saying “When puss belly full him seh rat batty bitter.” meaning: When you are not in need, you pick and choose.
The Need for Reform of Labour Laws
Some employers promote disinformation, this is false or misleading information that is spread deliberately to deceive. These employers intentionally target the vulnerable. They disguise their unethical arrangements as wonderful work opportunities. Unravelling these seemingly fair arrangements will expose their complex and unethical business practices. I urge the government to thoroughly reform our employee protection laws or labour laws. There are too many loopholes for employers to exploit. It is good that Jamaica’s economy is growing to be more modern and complex, but the government must ensure that our labour laws are growing along with it. Many of our labour laws are outdated and ineffective.
To illustrate the extremes to which some employers will go just to exploit their employees, I prepared an example. The following advertisement was published in a credible local newspaper and on a popular job search website.
Get Paid for your photos on UpfulJamaica!
Signing up to post inspiring images with UpfulJamaica is an opportunity for a new source of income! Passive Income. Work at your own time and pace. Join our team and display your images in our online gallery.
Contributing Photographer (Pay-Per-View)
UpfulJamaica captures over 200,000 monthly visitors and is seeking Contributing Photographers, this position will allow you to inspire many individuals with your motivational photos and gain recognition as a photographer.
Compensation is determined by the number of views your images receive.
- An experienced photographer who can beautifully frame a subject.
- Motivational high-quality original images
- New and Creative Ideas
Take off with UpfulJamaica.com
- Earn credibility
- Tap into our large community
- Work at your own time and pace.
- Opportunity to earn passive income.
Sounds good, let’s say you applied, and about a week later you got mail! “…You were shortlisted based on your application and résumé. Please submit a portfolio of your best work….” So, you did, one week later they replied “…Congratulations! You were selected for the position, are you still interested?…” Considering all your invested time and effort, of course, you were still interested. However, you had a question. Payment details? UpfulJamaica informs you that payments are made via PayPal or bank transfer. However, there is a payment threshold of JMD 10,000.00 per month for payouts based on views. Additionally, you had a chance to win a bonus of JMD 15,000.00 if you post the most images for the month. Which means you could potentially earn up to JMD 25,000.00 per month. Although that is a low amount, it’s still better than nothing, especially when you have bills to pay. Plus, this could become passive income, that is, income that requires little to no effort to earn and maintain. So, you accepted the offer.
Another week has passed, you were given your login instructions, you clicked the “I accept the terms” button required and logged in. You were now a contributing photographer to their esteemed website. It’s the start of the month, and there are about 24 other contributing photographers, so you better get to work if you want to win that bonus. You posted your best photos; they were among the most viewed on the website. You anticipated your payout of JMD 10,000.00 at the end of the month. But, unfortunately, you did not achieve the view threshold. How is it possible that your photos which were placed at the top of the homepage, boasted the highest view counts, still wasn’t enough to break the required threshold? Also, although your photos were of great quality they weren’t enough for you to win the coveted JMD 15,000.00 bonus either. Should you have prioritised quantity over quality in pursuit of the bonus? Low-quality content could have adversely affected your credibility, but at least you would have some money in your pocket. Would you try again to earn JMD 25,000 the next month?
Here is what’s happening; UpfulJamaica’s job offer may seem like a great opportunity, but in reality, it is far from it. Like the lottery, UpfulJamaica’s business model is designed to ensure money flows mainly in one direction, to the owners, not the contributors. The threshold set by the employer is unattainable. If UpfulJamaica.com supposedly receives 200,000 visitors per month, why did the company set an unrealistic initial threshold? One that is impossible to achieve in one month, perhaps not even within a year. But, you likely wouldn’t realize this until after counting your views at the end of the first month. Wondering why so long? The agreement between you and UpfulJamaica includes a very misleading stipulation that disproportionately benefits UpfulJamaica at the expense of the contributing photographers. It stipulates that views for payment are counted differently from the public views seen on UpfulJamaica.com. It uses a complex methodology that ensures that view count for payment purposes is significantly reduced. The stipulated method used to count views for payment may be over 50% less than the public views seen on UpfulJamaica.com. After one month, even the views of the highest performing contributing photographer would still accumulate less than 10% of the views needed to pass the initial payout threshold. By the time that you become aware of the disadvantages of your agreement, UpfulJamaica has already benefited greatly. The increased traffic generated from your posted images, comments, likes and shares, increases UpfulJamica’s advertisement revenue. This is the monetary income that individuals and businesses earn from displaying paid advertisements on their websites, social media channels, or other platforms surrounding their internet-based content. Therefore, more visitors simply means more ad revenue. UpfulJamaica’s advertisement revenue would increase monthly from the hard work of all contributing photographers, yet, the company pays none! Instead, monthly they reward only one contributing photographer with a meagre bonus of JMD 15,000.00. Would you be financially compensated for the work you have already done? Very unlikely, your posted work may generate passive income, but this is speculative and based on forward-looking statements. The agreement between you and the employer is more of an investment contract than an employment contract. So, how much money are they potentially withholding from their employees? Let’s use realistic figures in an example.
For this example, let us assume that UpfulJamaica hires 25 contributing photographers. Also, 24 contributing photographers do their job very well and post 5 high-quality photos per week. The remaining contributing photographer works harder to create 6 posts per week. Considering Jamaica’s minimum wage of JMD 7,000.00 per week, since 2018. If you divide said JMD 7,000.00 by 5, then the time and effort required to create one post are worth at least JMD 1,400.00. Therefore, each contributing photographer deserves to be paid at least JMD 28,000.00 per month. That would be a fair labour cost of JMD 700,000.00 per month for UpfulJamaica. In contrast, UpfulJamaica pays none of the contributing photographers for their hard work because none would have achieved the unattainable initial payout threshold. However, the contributing photographer who created 6 posts per week would have won the coveted bonus for most monthly posts of JMD 15,000.00. Note this is a bonus, not a wage. In this example, UpfulJamaica withheld a total of JMD 700,000.00 in wages from its contributing photographers. Saving the company JMD 685,000.00 in labour costs. Money, all 25 contributing photographers worked long hard hours for. The number of posts from each contributing photographer may vary each month. Also, the bonus winner may vary as well, but the bonus amount remains fixed at JMD 15,000.00. The sole purpose of the said bonus is to create a competitive environment; incentivizing each contributing photographer to create as many posts possible each month. This is a shameless manipulation of employees. Sadly, Even If you should quit in the end. UpfulJamaica will continue to benefit. The agreement between you, the contributing photographer and UpfulJamaica gave the company the right to continuously use and profit from your work, even if you are no longer with the company. Secondly, another job seeker may soon fall victim to their deceitful scheme. In Which, UpfulJamaica is provided with a consistent stream of content and revenue. While many honest employees are unfairly exploited.
Employment is the state of having paid work. Therefore, if you are guessing whether or not you will receive payment for completed work, then by definition you don’t have a job. UpfulJamaica’s arrangement offered content creators an opportunity to invest content in UpfulJamaica.com, on the promise that they may eventually earn passive income at an undetermined future date. Furthermore, this promise is solely based on forward-looking statements provided by the company. There is no guarantee that the agreement will provide future earnings. Additionally, UpfulJamaica’s agreement freely grants them the right to continuously use and profit from all intellectual property posted on upfulJamaica.com. This agreement should be considered a speculative investment. This is an investment with a high degree of risk where the focus of the contributor is on price fluctuations. UpfulJamaica intentionally misled content creators, by marketing their speculative offer as employment. This act is the very definition of disinformation.
The aforementioned scenario is very specific and mainly relates to content creators. Gig workers in the creative market perhaps have it worst. The creative market is largely unregulated. Therefore, clients frequently exploit freelancers. Many rather search for a good freelancer that is desperate enough to accept an unreasonable offer, than to pay a fair price. To make matters worse, the more freelancers accept these terrible offers, the further their market depreciates. There are other ways employers exploit their employees.
Multi–Level Marketing Companies
These are companies which use network marketing, direct selling, referral marketing, and pyramid selling) for most of their sales. Older members at the top continuously take money from the new recruits at the bottom, by charging membership or subscription fees. Therefore, their goal is to consistently recruit new members in large numbers. Oftentimes these companies will sell high-risk services instead of a tangible product. For example, selling attractive travel-club memberships to people who lack the passport or visa necessary for travel.
Crippled by student loan debt, many university students desperately need a job. Not all but many organizations will seek to exploit them. Corporations will promote their internships to university students. These are great opportunities if they are genuine. But it can be really hard to spot the ones that aren’t. Some employers will significantly underpay the interns for up to 6 months or a year. After which, they offer only a tiny fraction progressive opportunities. The majority of them will be fired and their hopes crushed. Some companies repeat this unethical cycle annually to keep labour costs low, fattening the pockets of executives and shareholders.
Fixed-term contracts (FTC)
These contract workers oftentimes are doing the same work as permanent full-time employees for less money and little to no benefits. These employees are hoping to be promoted to a permanent position at the end of their contract. However, when it’s time for the highly anticipated promotion, the employer offers only to renew the same contract, always due to unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances of course.
How to find real opportunities
It is important to note that not all employers, or organizations intentionally deceive or exploit their employees. Fair and lucrative work opportunities are available. Therefore, when searching for a job, you must pay close attention to important details. Here are a few helpful tips.
Increase your streams of income
Ensure that you have at least two sources of income. This will allow you to have the confidence to take the appropriate action necessary if you realize that an employer is exploiting you.
Research Potential Employers
What is their turnover rate? Are other employees frequently quitting or being fired? If yes, then that is a bad sign. Employees who feel they are being treated fair and with respect tend to work for the same employer for a long time. On the other hand, if they are being exploited they tend to leave quickly.
Network with others
Inquire about employers from others within your industry, are they rated good or bad? Ask others about their experience and identify similarities. That’s how you learn if the job is worth it or not. Many employees may be hesitant to share bad experiences about their employer, but you should listen keenly to what they are not saying, read carefully between the lines.
Ask your employers the right questions
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Therefore, do not be afraid to ask probing questions. Question anything that seems off.
Seek Out Unions
If you have already invested the majority of your years with an employer, perhaps it’s best to seek out and join a union. A positive outcome is more likely if workers unite for a common goal “United we stand, divided we fall”.
Always read the Terms
Similarly, to this article, Terms and conditions are normally at the very end. Ensure to read these contracts thoroughly. Never assume your employer has your best interest at heart. It takes only one click or a signature to give away all your rights. Read the entire contract. If it’s too long, then have google read it to you. If you don’t understand the legal jargon, then google it, or seek legal advice. Make sure that you truly understand and agree to the terms and conditions before you click or sign.
Thanks for listening, please share with others if you found this information useful.