Platform work is going to stay with us for good. Time for systemic measures.

Instytut Spraw Publicznych

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Social policy

Platform work is going to stay with us for good. Time for systemic measures.

Digital labour platforms have become firmly established in the economy, contracting all sorts of tasks, both online and on location - from software development and interactive classes to beauty and cleaning services.  In almost every sector, work can become platformised, making it all the more urgent to find an answer to the question of how to protect workers' rights in business models controlled by algorithms.  

In the international project Don't GIG Up. Never!, launched at the end of October this year, we will analyse the practice of work platforms in sectors that have so far remained on the margins of public debate. The research will cover Estonia, France, Spain, Germany, Poland and Italy, and will be a continuation of work carried out in previous years, when the Institute of Public Affairs, together with partners from other countries, analysed the activities and conditions of work provided through platforms in the transport and courier industry. 

The recommendations developed at that time have now been reflected in the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 16 September this year. Among other things, it includes a proposal that the company operating a work platform should bear the burden of proof that the relationship between the contractor and the platform is not an employment relationship. 

At the kick-off meeting of the Don't GIG Up. Never! project, organised by its leader, the Giacomo Brodolini Foundation, an Italian MEP, Brando Boniferi, who deals with regulations concerning artificial intelligence, expressed hope that the provisions of the resolution would be reflected in the draft Directive on platform work, which is to be announced by the European Commission in December. He also said that MEPs were against the creation of a new category of platform workers, as the work they do can be classified under the existing categories of employment or self-employment. Ludovic Voet, Confederal Secretary at ETUC, was of the same opinion. 

Moreover, platform work is itself very heterogeneous. This is evidenced by the results of the cyclical international COLLEEM survey, which was presented by Annarosa Pesole from the Italian Ministry of Labour and by the results of the European Labour Authority study presented by its representative, Irene Mandl . Platform work may involve both single small tasks and the implementation of entire projects.  There are tasks performed online, such as software development, creative work with multimedia, interactive lessons, data entry, but also jobs performed on location: repairs, renovations, cleaning, care and transport services.  At the same time, drivers and couriers, whose work for digital platforms has been well visible in the public space and has been the object of numerous studies and analyses, represent only 10-15% among platform workers. This makes it all the more important to look at other sectors with platform-organised work, especially that, as Ludovic Voet said, very many professions can be "platformised". He also pointed out that in the situation when platform companies did not recognise their role as employers, for instance in Italy, individual workers, in the absence of other options to enforce their rights, went  to court, which in most cases ruled that there was a relationship of subordination, characteristic of an employment relationship. This example shows that systemic approach and measures are needed  to protect the rights of platform workers. 

As pointed out by Michele Faioli of the Giacomo Brodolini Foundation, in the project Don't GIG Up.Never! we will seek answers to such questions as:

- What is the status of digital labour platforms as employers and consequently the responsibilities of the platforms and their employees?
- How to strike a balance between stimulating technical innovation and protecting workers' rights?
- To what extent can national practices in the area of collective bargaining agreements be a useful tool to achieve this balance?
The full video transcript of the contributions of the invited experts, including also a summary of previous activities carried out under the Don't GIG Up project by Annamaria Simonazi of FGB, is available HERE.

The project Don’t GIG Up. Never!  is co-financed by the European Union

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