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By Emma Keeler-Dugas
The Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia (CUFA BC)’s 2021 Ehor Boyanowsky Academic of the Year award recognizes School of Communication associate professor Enda Brophy and his research illuminating the complex dynamics of remote and precarious work.
The Academic of the Year award acknowledges a specific and recent outstanding contribution to the community.
As an associate member of SFU’s Labour Studies program, Brophy, along with his class CMNS 440/LBST 431: Labour, Communication and the Media, partnered with workers, labour advocates and trade unions to produce a report on the labour conditions and collective organizing among food delivery workers in Metro Vancouver during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brophy says the project sought to challenge the assumption in academia that professors do the research and students simply consume it. Rather, in this course students collectively conducted a research project from conception to execution during the course of a semester.
In recent years, Canada, and other countries, have seen an increase in the ‘gig economy’, characterized by short-term, freelance or on-demand, contract work, instead of permanent employment. Prominent examples include app-based transportation, accommodation and food-delivery services, like Uber and Airbnb.
Proponents extoll the gig economy’s lifestyle flexibility, letting people work where and when they want and ability to supplement their income.
The report produced in Brophy’s course, however, highlights the vulnerability of gig workers in Canada who are often women, people of colour and immigrants. The report calls for action to close loopholes on the regulations of gig workers who are so often excluded from labour protections and regulations.
Brophy says we can all help gig workers by treating them with respect, adding, “supporting the workers and unions pushing for that change is something all of us can do, whether it’s by paying more attention to the issues, supporting campaigns by signing petitions or making financial contributions, or getting involved in advocating for social change.”
Brophy’s nomination for this award was supported by SFU’s Institutional Strategic Awards office, which provides expertise, resources and professional services for large-scale, complex and institutional research funding proposals and research award nominations.