Improving the working conditions of platform workers. Pt. 1
Kim van Sparrentak
Green Member of the European Parliament
Back to home
Improving the working conditions of platform workers. Pt. 1
In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with Green MEP Kim van Sparrentak. They discuss platform workers and the European Commission’s new legislative proposal to improve their working conditions.
In this two-part episode, we tackle the issue of platform workers – an increasing amount of workers who rely on being paid for each completed task (gig) in the gig economy. In the first episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with Green MEP Kim van Sparrentak, who is assessing the European Commission’s new legislative proposal to improve the working conditions of people working through digital labour platforms. In the second part, Digital Worker Rights Activist James Farrar, describes his experience as an Uber driver and the main challenges that digital workers face. New disruptive digital technologies lead to innovation, but also risk endangering existing worker’s rights and protections – leading to the need to regulate digital working rights.
Although the EU lacks a clear definition of gig-work, it is estimated that up to 36 million EU workers have participated in gig-work, including through platforms such as Uber or Deliveroo. Technology offers new ways to put workers and customers in contact with each other through online platforms. In the digital economy, work is broken down into its smallest constituent parts and is then distributed to workers using algorithms. Today, platform workers are paid for each completed task (gig) rather than employed through regular work contracts which include social protections – but this will likely soon change.
Considering the impact of the gig-economy on workers and the likely increase and spread to more traditional sectors of the economy, measures must be taken to limit the negative consequences. That’s why the European Commission is working on a solution for platform workers to make sure that they get the rights that they deserve, in the form of a new legislative initiative. The Greens have always pushed for decent working conditions and are fighting for platform workers to have the worker protection and rights that they deserve.
The European Commission’s new legislation to improve platform worker’s conditions
Due to a lag in regulation, member states such as Spain have been spearheaded solutions to these challenges, in tandem with the thousands of court cases brought against big digital platform companies across Europe. Now in 2022, important legislative changes propose to address them to ensure better working conditions of platform workers at the European level. The European Commission’s new legislative initiative, which Green MEP Kim van Sparrentak is working on, has two important aspects.
The first is that it tackles ‘bogus self-employment’, which allows companies to treat platform workers as interchangeable assets rather than employees. Indeed, the platform workers do not really have the freedom of a self-employed person in the first place – they cannot decide which jobs they want to take and must take the ones given by the algorithm. Now, the companies must show evidence of their employees being self-employed.
now part of a social dialogue which will give workers a The second is that the algorithmic management of employees will be strictly regulated, ensuring that it is now part of a social dialogue which will give workers a say in how the algorithm works. A person will also be made accountable for important decisions that until now have been relegated to the algorithm such as firing employees (also known as ‘robo-firing’). This is vital since algorithmic management is extending into other sectors. As Kim van Sparrentak states:
“The whole idea of having platforms and platform work is not something that is going to go away soon. But we have to make sure that the people working for these platforms have the right protection and are treated as the employees that they are.”
The EU draft directive will do a lot to mitigate the issues that platform workers face, but there is still work to be done to recover a dignified conception of work and rights within the digital economy. It must also be part of a larger effort to stop the increasing casualisation of corporate employment relationships which creates insecurity and precarity. As Farrar states, the language of the gig economy: “has confused our conception of work and the rights are associated with it”.
Beyond worker solidarity, we also need national and global solidarity on this issue, to share experiences about the gig economy, our learnings about data and digital rights in Europe, as well as tactics of resistance. At a time in which the digital economy is infiltrating new areas of the labour market, it is critical to remain vigilant of how new and disruptive technologies are affecting hard-earned worker’s rights and working conditions.
Uber driver turned activist: Data exploitation in the gig economy
In the digital economy, platform workers face many challenges. Firstly, they are misclassified by many digital platforms as self-employed, as they seek to externalise obligations that historically assumed by employers. Secondly, the surveillance of these workers has been intensifying, with facial recognition and geolocation checking becoming the norm. Platform workers are increasingly under the control of ‘hidden algorithms’ which seek to exert power over them. Thirdly, they face heightened occupational health and safety risks due to their limited worker protections and their essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
James Farrar is Founder of the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) and Founder and Director of the Worker Info Exchange set up to help gig, platform workers secure their data rights as defined under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). When James Farrar was assaulted on the job, these risks became evident. Contractually, Uber had set itself up as merely a booking agent rather than an employer, shedding any responsibility for the drivers themselves. Instead of helping Farrar with his police report, they focused on protecting their customer. He then started to ask: ‘What are we truly earning per hour?’, ‘How is our time on the platform utilised?’, and ‘Is there fairness in how the work is allocated and dispatched?’.
Farrar fought for his employee rights along with other Uber drivers in a worker status claim case that went to the UK Supreme Court and succeeded in February 2021.
What started out as an individual issue became a collective struggle for worker’s rights. He started organising workers in 2015, which became a certified trade union with the largest base of Uber drivers and couriers in the UK. Despite the asymmetric relationship of power between workers and big platforms, Farrar has proven that it’s possible to resist on the streets, in court, in the lobbies, in the workplace and in the media to challenge unfair automated decisions. Recently, Worker Info Exchange has published a report ‘Managed by Bots: Data-Driven Exploitation in the Gig Economy’ which explores how companies exert algorithmic control on workers. Farrar illustrates the importance of building worker power in the face of companies who try to isolate claimants and repress change:
“Organising is about workers getting together, building trust and solidarity amongst themselves, and preparing to resist and fight back.”
Tackling the ‘shadow pandemic’ of Gender Based Violence in EuropeHealth Polices
Green Member of the European Parliament
In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with Green MEP Terry Reintke. They discuss the Gender Based Violence Directive proposed by the European Commission, and how the Greens are fighting against the backlash on women's rights and gender equality in recent years.
The European Green Party’s 35th Council: Greens in power! Pt.2Health Polices
Urszula Sara Zielińska
member of the Polish Parliament, co-chair of Partia Zieloni
Portuguese National MP, city councillor in Lisbon and Co-Spokesperson of LIVRE
In this episode, Mar Garcia, Secretary-General of the European Green Party, is in conversation with key leaders advancing Green policies in Europe. Urszula Zielińska, Co-Chair of Partia Zieloni and Member of Parliament at the Polish Parliament, speaks about the threat to rule of law in Poland and the EU's role in helping to tackle it. Rui Tavares, Member of Parliament at the Portuguese Parliament, speaks on how to bridge urgent priorities with social and ecological priorities.
The European Green Party’s 35th Council: Greens in power! Pt.1Health Polices
Co-chair of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and Member of the German Bundestag
European Commissioner of Environment, Oceans and Fisheries
Prime Minister of Montenegro
In this episode, Mar Garcia, Secretary General of the European Green Party, is in conversation with key Green politicians from all over Europe who hold different responsibilities at different levels. In the first part of the episode, Mar exchanges with Ricarda Lang, Co-chair of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and Member of the German Bundestag about how to turn a political vision into governing action; with Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner of Environment, Oceans and Fisheries about how to implement an ambitious European Green Deal; and with Dritan Abazović, Prime Minister of Montenegro about how to build on more democratic values after decades of corruption. During these three conversations, Mar Garcia enquires about the challenges they face but also about the successes they achieved.
Green Local Councillors in ValenciaHealth Polices
City of Valencia
Director of Energy Cities
City of Barcelona
In this episode, Mélanie Vogel, Green Senator of France, is in conversation with Claire Roumet, Director of Energy Cities, Eloi Badia Casas, Councillor for Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition of the City Council and Vice President of Ecology of Barcelona, and Sergi Campillo, the Deputy Mayor of Valencia and General Coordinator of the Area of Urban Ecology. They discuss the energy crisis and why now is the best time to accelerate the energy transition to secure a more resilient and peaceful future.
Why the Digital Services Act is critical to uphold democracy. Pt. 2Health Polices
EDRi Senior Policy Advisor
In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with Senior Policy Advisor at European Digital Rights (EDRi) Jan Penfrat explains how the DSA helps to shift the online ecosystem away from ad-driven centralized mega platforms, and towards a more decentralized version of the internet.
Why the Digital Services Act is critical to uphold democracy. Pt. 1Health Polices
Member of the European Parliament
In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with Green MEP Alexandra Geese. They discuss the Digital Services Act (DSA), and how this new piece of EU legislation will regulate our digital platforms and enhance our democracies in the process.
Improving the working conditions of platform workers. Pt. 2Health Polices
Digital Workers’ rights activist
In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with Digital Worker Rights Activist James Farrar. They discuss his thoughts on data driven exploitation in the gig economy as a former Uber driver turned activist, and how gig companies are using ‘hidden algorithmic control’ to exert more power over workers.
Healthcare as a common goodHealth Polices
Petra de Sutter
Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and Former Green MEP
In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with the Deputy Prime minister of Belgium Petra de Sutter, former Green MEP who is also a health professional, and a person of reference on health issues within the Green family. They assess how the European Union and national governments have managed the pandemic thus far and discuss the key role of accessible vaccines to ensure a pandemic recovery for all.
How the EU can improve its fight against child labourHealth Polices
MEP for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament and Member of Ecolo
In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with MEP for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and member of Ecolo Saskia Bricmont. They discuss the pressing issue of child labour and the European Union’s concerning footprint of child labour imports, as well as what can be done to lower it without pushing children into more dangerous activities.
How the EU can improve its fight against forced labourHealth Polices
MEP for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and Member of the German Greens
In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with MEP for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and member of the German Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) Anna Cavazzini. They discuss forced labour and what the European Union can do to tackle this critical issue, whilst also protecting the vulnerable people who suffer from it.
COP26 in Glasgow: A Green perspectiveHealth Polices
European Green Party Committee Member
State Secretary of the Finnish Ministry of Environment
Climate Campaigner Rheanna Johnston is in conversation with European Green Party Committee Member Oras Tynkkynen and Terhi Lehtonen, State Secretary of the Finnish Ministry of Environment. Recorded at COP26, they discuss the climate summit negotiations, and what actions Green leaders are taking to tackle the climate crisis.
Transparency and accountability of pharmaceutical industryHealth Polices
Expert on access and affordable medicines
EGP Committee Member Mélanie Vogel is in conversation with Yannis Natsis, Policy Manager for the European Health Alliance. They discuss the unequal distribution of vaccines and how pharmaceutical companies thrive in secrecy, taking advantage of secret deals signed with EU member states.
Climate Activists towards COP26Health Polices
Climate activists at the European Ideas Lab
Esmeralda Sofía Caro, Dhreen Baloch, Walter Ruggeri, Narmine Abou Bakari, Lena Hartog
Climate Campaigner Rheanna Johnson is in conversation with MAPA activists Esmeralda Sofía Caro Pieri and Dhreen Baloch, Digital Rights Campaigner Narmine Abou Bakari, and Co-Founder of the Slow Fashion Movement Lena Hartog. As COP26 approaches fast, they discuss the impact of the climate crisis on frontline communities, the throwaway culture surrounding our digital devices, and how to address pollution and overconsumption in the fashion industry.
Equitable access to medicinesHealth Polices
Researcher and Activist on Public Health Issues
EGP Committee Member Mélanie Vogel is in conversation with Gaëlle Krikorian, a researcher and activist on public health. They discuss the fault lines of our healthcare system, and the role of patents play in the issue of unequal access to pharmaceutical goods and treatment.
Fit for ClimateFit for 2030
Member of the European Parliament - Greens/EFA
Climate campaigner Rheanna Johnston is in conversation with Bas Eickhout, a member GroenLinks and the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, to discuss the latest battleground in the fight against the climate crisis: the Fit-for-2030 file.
Analytical cookies are used to understand how visitors interact with the website. These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc.
The _ga cookie, installed by Google Analytics, calculates visitor, session and campaign data and also keeps track of site usage for the site's analytics report. The cookie stores information anonymously and assigns a randomly generated number to recognize unique visitors.
Set by Google to distinguish users.
Installed by Google Analytics, _gid cookie stores information on how visitors use a website, while also creating an analytics report of the website's performance. Some of the data that are collected include the number of visitors, their source, and the pages they visit anonymously.
YouTube sets this cookie via embedded youtube-videos and registers anonymous statistical data.