Leeds Index of Platform Labour Protest released

CERIC researchers have been working on an Index of Platform Labour Protest.

The newly developed Leeds Index of Platform Labour Protest provides an overview of developments in platform worker organisation and mobilisation on a global scale. Platform work – that is, paid work mediated via an online platform or app – has grown rapidly in recent years. Working conditions in platform work are often characterised by low pay or non-payment, a lack of work or overwork, irregular hours, constant pressure from customer ratings, the risk of sudden ‘deactivation’ by the platform algorithm, a lack of transparency or accountability in platform decision-making, and reduced social and employment protections (Forde et al. 2017).

Moreover, major insecurities stem from the (bogus) ‘self-employed worker’ status.  Recent instances of worker mobilisation – such as the legal case brought by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain arguing Uber drivers in the UK should be treated as workers rather than as self-employed – have shown that platform work can be challenged successfully.

The new and distinctive combination of working arrangements originally led many commentators to question whether platform workers could ever be effectively organised (Johnston and Land-Kazlauskas 2018; Vandaele 2018). It is now clear, however, that such fears were misplaced.

The Leeds Index of Platform Labour Protest maps protest and workers organisation against platform globally. It will be the first project to track labour disputes in this sector on a global scale, and therefore promises to be a vital and innovative resource for academics and practitioners. First findings of the Leeds Index are now published with the European Trade Union Institute as a Policy Brief.

The findings reveal that:

  • The main cause globally for labour protest is pay, with considerable geographical variation when it comes to other causes for dispute.
  • Types of platform labour protest appear to vary more substantially between regions than between industries.
  • Mainstream unions play a vital role in defending platform workers’ interests, especially in western Europe, while in the global South, protests are much more likely to be led by grassroots unions.
  • Mainstream unions rely more frequently on legal challenges, while unofficial unions rely more frequently on strike actions.

For further information please contact the team Simon Joyce, Denis Neumann, Vera Trappmann, Charles Umney.