Organizing On-Demand: Representation, Voice, and Collective Bargaining in the Gig Economy
‘Gig’ or platform-based work represents one of the most recent, highly-publicized labour market trends. Attributed to the increased demand for flexibility on the part of employers (Eurofound, 2015a), better labour market efficiency (IOE, 2017) and, in some cases the desire for greater flexibility on the part of workers (De Stefano, 2016), gig and platform-based work is one type of non-standard work facilitated through technology and digital markets, on-demand. Despite its relatively small size (Farrell and Grieg, 2016) the gig economy has the potential to rapidly change the way work is organized and performed, to alter the content and quality of jobs, and to reshape industries. This paper examines challenges to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining for workers in the gig economy, and explores the broad range of strategies that gig-economy workers are using to build collective agency, and to promote effective regulation of gig work.
The paper ends with a discussion of barriers that self-employed platform workers face to effectively achieve collective bargaining and efforts to achieve effective representation and collective bargaining for workers in the gig economy. In this section we discuss important steps that could be taken to ensure the right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining among independent contractors, who often find their these rights curtailed by anti-trust legislation. This section also highlights a number of recent efforts at collective regulation undertaken by workers and platforms in the gig economy.
This paper is the result of extensive research conducted from October 2016 through December 2017. Industry trends and general themes were assessed through secondary sources including academic, industry, trade union, employers’ organizations and governmental publications. News stories provide context-specific information on targeted initiatives and case-specific developments. This background information is complimented by over twenty interviews with key informants working on issues relating to the gig economy and platform based employment. The strategies that appear under each section should neither be conceptualized as unique nor exclusive to the framework within which they are classified. Instead, this categorization helps to explore the central mechanism through which worker agency originates and evolves.