Union approach to platform economy: Russian case

Overview of contributions of FNPR and KTR participants at the ITUC meeting on platform and gig economy for NIS countries held on 29th of January

Based on the article in Solidarnost newspaper

Platform employment is not regulated in the Russian labor legislation. At the same time, the law on trade unions contains the concept of workers, which, among others, include individual entrepreneurs and persons engaged in individual professional activities. Elena Kosakovskaya, Deputy Head of the Department of Social and Labor Relations and Social Partnership of the FNPR, spoke about these domestic realities.

- People working for the platforms, as a rule, are in the status of individual entrepreneurs or self-employed, or they work informally. From the point of view of the Labor Code, they are not in labor relations, which means that they do not fall under the concept of workers, - explained Kosakovskaya. And she said that the concept of "employee who is a party to labor relations" is still quite narrow. And we need to think about how to expand it. Kosakovskaya also described the main, relevant features of this kind of employment. Thus, the self-employed pay significantly less taxes than ordinary workers: 4 - 6% versus 13%. For them, contributions to social funds have also been radically reduced. At the same time, platform employees and self-employed in fact lack the rights and guarantees established for ordinary workers. At the same time, individual entrepreneurs and self-employed enjoy the right to association and to join a trade union. Platform workers can also receive unemployment benefits (albeit only minimal).

- Now in Russia there is a sufficient number of digital platforms. Their main field of activity is the provision of services, transport, delivery, and so on. At the same time, neither trade unions nor government agencies have statistics on platform employees - their number, earnings, and contributions. The platform companies lack unions since the segment itself is still relatively new. There is no legislative regulation of digital platforms and labor relations in them, says Kosakovskaya.

The expert recalled that the X Congress of the FNPR adopted a resolution “Trade union protection for every worker”. The document covers any kind of precarious work, including platform employment. The FNPR believes that any type of labor that has signs of employment should be qualified as labor relations and regulated by labor legislation. The trade union center considers it necessary to provide all workers with the right to trade union protection, collective bargaining, collective agreements and state guarantees in the sphere of labour.

From the point of view of trade unions, self-employed and all platform workers must be included in the concept of “worker” prescribed in the law and also state guarantees in the field of labor must be extended to all workers - regardless of the form of employment and legal status (minimum wage, maximum working hours, labor protection). - We will seek the implementation of these measures. Including within the framework of the work of the Russian Tri-partite Commission for the Regulation of Social and Labor Relations, - Elena Kosakovskaya assured.

Alexander Nurik, the head of the Center for Social and Labor Rights (CSTP), spoke about the experience of working with couriers employed on the Yandex and Delivery platforms. According to him, for several years already, CSTP has been recording the protest activity of platform workers both in the regions and in Moscow. - Even in 2020, which was not conducive to collective action, still there were protest actions of taxi drivers in different regions of Russia. It should be noted that the geography of the protests is wide, but scattered. So far, these are small local initiatives. There is no stable association in this area yet,” - Nurik said. And he emphasized: despite the fact that the actions themselves are still small, local media actively react to them as a bright news-making opportunity.

In this regard, attention should be paid to another sector of platforms - couriers. Due to the pandemic, delivery services showed unprecedented growth last year. The number of employees has increased as well as the number of questions they pose to management.

- In the summer, the first collective action of the Delivery club food delivery service workers took place. They drew attention to one of the most serious internal problems of the service - an opaque and ramified system of fines. The next action took place in October, becoming even more noticeable: several hundred couriers gathered near the main office of Mail.ru as the owner of Delivery platform. Later, the workers of this platform organized a struggle for the provision of winter jackets. It is clear that these are not yet massive actions. Nevertheless, thanks to serious information support, they achieve their goal, - said Nurik.

In December 2020, under the auspices of the Confederation of Labor of Russia, a meeting was held with representatives of the initiative group of couriers, IT workers and taxi drivers. This group, from the point of view of the head of the CSTP, is a kind of proto-trade union. The meeting discussed the experience of collective action and the achievements of platform workers in the field of protecting their rights. - Russian legislation does not yet provide serious tools for consistent defense of the labor rights of the self-employed and people employed in the platform economy. And the Civil Code does not provide effective tools to protect such rights. A key tool for protecting the rights of these workers is the ability to come together and act together. Now the issue of creating a trade union of workers in the sphere of platform employment is being actively discussed, - summed up Alexander Nurik.

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