Carried out in 14 states, including Austria, a new survey by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) once more confirms that low earning opportunities are accompanied by high fluctuation and short, fragmented working periods of online and platform workers at the same time. On 17 February 2022, this issue took centre stage at a large ETUI conference. The conference results confirmed the demands of AK: the proposal on platform work, presented by the Commission in December 2021, is urgently required and must not be watered down during the further negotiating process.
“In most cases, platform work is only a side job and therefore too small to be regulated”. According to Martin Gruber-Risak, Professor for Labour Law and Law of Social Security at the University of Vienna, statements like these are only smoke screen arguments of a neoliberal agenda. The ETUI survey carried out by Ipsos, estimates the number of (partial) online workers, hence people who have already provided digital services to be 47.5 million (this is equivalent to approximately 17 % of the working age population of the EU). About 12 million people in the EU (4.3 %) are working part time via platforms and about 3 million people (1.1 %) can be classified as platform workers.
Within the scope of the ETUI Conference, Silvia Rainone (ETUI) names precarity, which is created by pseudo self-employment, unpaid on-call times and by the particular imbalance in the bargaining power between platform and worker, as one of the main characteristics of platform work. 85 % of workers earn less than half of their annual income through platform work. The hourly pay at the top end is between 15 Euro/hour for professional remote work and slightly above 8 Euro/hour for delivery work. The pay of more than half of platform workers is below the statutory minimum wage.
The ETUI survey also shows that in most cases online and platform work provides an additional income for people with less secure offline jobs. Klick-Work, e.g. composing short product descriptions, was carried out by almost 10 million people, whilst fewer people (1.5 million) work in the delivery and transport sector, e.g. at Uber and Deliveroo. Platform and online work is also characterised by high fluctuation. Whilst almost 30 % of the people asked in the survey have tried earning money via platforms, almost half of them had already terminated their job prior to the survey. According to Valeria Pulignano (Centre for Sociological Research), this is also due to the fact that online and platform workers have to work long hours, but earn little nevertheless. Hence, one of the conclusions of the ETUI Conference was that there is an urgent need for collective structures and rights to improve the situation of platform workers.
AK: Important proposal on improving the working conditions at online platform companies
In a new Position Paper on the Commission’s proposed Directive, AK welcomes the latter as an important step. However, improvements are necessary: in particular, a clear definition as to when a platform has to be qualitied as a service provider. The plan to introduce a legal assumption for the existence of employment is extremely positive. However, the Commission’s proposal provides for at least two typical platform work criteria to be fulfilled, which, from AK’s point of view, is too restrictive. Further points shall be added to the list of criteria, whereby the existence of one of these criteria shall be sufficient to apply legal assumption.
Information duties and protection in respect of algorithmic management
A welcome component of the Commission’s proposal are the information duties towards employees, which shall apply to the self-employed as well. A poorer treatment of workers due to algorithmic managements shall be banned: AK also demands an explicit ban of “defamation”, which might influence any further job opportunities, for example in the form of “blacklists” or shared “bad rankings”. It is paramount to create the possibility to challenge and to delete false as well as discriminating reviews. Furthermore, it should be enshrined that personal data must not be shared with other platforms.