Workers’ Rights in Platform Economy in Europe and Central Asia

The joint PERC - FES workshop " Workers’ Rights in Platform Economy in Europe and Central Asia " was organized on the 17th of May 2022 on ZOOM platform.

The platform economy has been developing and evolving rapidly in the last decade, not only in terms of creating new business models that fall outside traditional economic activities and categories, but also when it comes to impacting the organisation of work and working conditions of millions of people. Since work through platforms is considered as a non-standard form of employment, working conditions and social rights of people working through platforms are not enshrined in standard labour regulation.

In the ILO, different discussions and debates are held in tripartite format. There are different sectoral discussions and debates by Global Union Federations. ETUI launched a set of debates and publications in framework of development digitalisation of work. In December, 2021 the European Commission published a proposal for a directive on the working conditions of platform workers that aims to ensure that people working through platforms obtain the correct employment status, ensure fairness, transparency and accountability in algorithmic management.
There are already different experiences on national level: development of legal regulations, important court decisions that establish presumption of employment relations for work of certain businesses, organising, mobilisation and collective bargaining by the workers engaged in platforms. At the same time, in some countries, particularly towards the East, while the platform type operations expanded greatly after surge of Covid-19, the unions only started discussing its policies and action plans.

In the first session Agnieszka Piasna, ETUI Senior Researcher presented ETUI work on platform/internet economy . ETUI has through 2018-2021 conducted in three sets Internet and Platform Work Survey (IPWS). Results of survey were presented to participants. Full report could be downloaded here. Inga Sabanova, policy officer, FES competence center “Future of Work” presented outcomes of FES Research Project on Online Platforms and Platform Work. FES „Future of Work“ initiated a research project Mapping Platform Economy of which one report will be available in June, 2021. The aim was to capture the existing platform economy landscape, e g employment status of platform workers, information on platform companies, collective agreements and legal cases across EU countries. Project covered 30 countries and project report with website will be released in the beginning of June with 6 interactive maps and 30 fact-sheets.

Michael Watt, Senior specialist, ILO-ACTRAV presented existing mechanisms for workers’ rights protection. Zuzanna Muskat-Gorska, ITUC Legal officertalked about need of regulation of platform work in the context of international labour standards and Recommendation R198 as still relevant guide for Trade Union work. Ignacio Doreste, Senior advisor, ETUC presented current stage of ETUC work on EU platform workers’ Directive that will lay the ground for workers currently being falsely self-employed to be reclassified as employees, delivering on their right to sick pay, paid holiday or parental leave. Also he reminded to participants about The digital platform observatory, which is a joint initiative of ETUC, IRES and ASTREES, funded by the European Commission. It brings together trade unionists, experts, activists, specialists of workers representation and collective action in the platform economy. Some national level practices by unions finished the overall discussion.

As an outcome of the discussion group came up to conclusion that we need to work on better understanding what platforms are as they go beyond “traditional” understanding of food delivery and transport services where we have visible workforce. There should be clear regulation of platform work and proper levels of taxation as per usual employer. There is no scientifically based evidence for positive development from precarious working conditions and a form of level of income that could be only acceptable as supplementary income. Migrants and minorities do not choose work in platforms, because it’s a better deal or easier to start, this is based on discrimination and obstacles in “traditional” labour markets which needs to be recognized and addressed. Workers have to be recognized as workers and have proper social protection coverage, respect for fundamental rights, adequate minimum wage and clear working time. Trade unions need to focus more on organising of platform workers, CBAs coverage of this particular group (separate or sectoral coverage), recognition of platform workers as workers in national legislation.

ETUI, Platform economy and online labour markets
FES, Mapping platform economy
ITUC, Regulating platform work in the context of international labour standards
Platform Economy in Central Asia