EU platform workers see unions as potential protectors

EU platform workers see unions as potential protectors


Platform workers in EU countries join trade unions just as actively as employees. According to a survey by the International Labor Organization (ILO), 13% of couriers, drivers and freelancers are already members of such organizations in the EU, which corresponds to the figure for traditional forms of employment. In the EU, the involvement of trade unions in representing the interests of platform workers occurs against the backdrop of legislative changes to ensure the protection of their rights. In Russia, the development of such trade unions can be hampered by two factors: the uncertainty of their potential goals and pressure on activists, experts say.

Platform workers in EU countries see trade unions as potential defenders of their labor rights and are ready to join these organizations. This conclusion was made by ILO researchers who surveyed 2 thousand platform workers from 14 European countries. The researchers included couriers, drivers and freelancers in this category. It is reported that platform employment in EU countries covers 5.6% of the working population.

As it turned out from the survey, 13% of such workers are already members of one or another trade union organization. This share, the authors of the study note, is not inferior to the indicator among workers with traditional employment formats. This allows us to conclude about the importance of trade unions as an institution for organizing the protection of the rights of platform workers. At the same time, there are differences. For example, women platform workers are somewhat more likely than men to become members of a trade union (14.2% and 12.6%, respectively). Among hired personnel, the situation is the opposite (12.9% and 13.9%, respectively). Trade union membership is more common among migrants who collaborate with platforms (16.2%) than among employees (10.7%). Platform workers with high levels of education are less likely to become union members (13.1%). The share of those who joined a trade union in traditional hiring in this case is 16.6%.

In terms of type of activity, the minimum indicator of trade union involvement was recorded in the food delivery sector (7.5%). Among freelancers and drivers, the share of union members is higher and reaches 10%. It reaches its maximum among those who undertake various tasks using platforms (20%).

Note that the difference in the status of hired and platform workers in Europe is narrowing. The EU Council and the European Parliament recently agreed on a bill that will better protect the rights of workers on online platforms (such as taxi drivers and delivery workers). It will be easier for them to file complaints about working conditions and seek recognition of themselves not as self-employed, but as hired workers, in order to receive all the benefits they are entitled to (for more details, see Kommersant of February 12). In addition, new norms may increase the attractiveness of trade unions and give such workers the opportunity to independently defend their rights in the courts.

In Russia, the situation with trade union membership of platform workers looks different (no research has been conducted on this topic, however). The share of trade union members among hired employees is obviously higher than among those involved in the work of platforms—the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of the Russian Federation alone includes 20 million people, or approximately 15% of all employees. Trade unions for platform workers (such as Courier and New Labor) appeared only a few years ago and are unlikely to have had time to attract millions of members.

The development of such organizations in the Russian Federation can be hampered by two factors. The first is conceptual uncertainty, says Pavel Kudyukin, a member of the Council of the Confederation of Labor of Russia. “We need to decide what such a union wants to achieve – for example, so that this precarious (unstable.- “Kommersant”) has the employment of its members changed to permanent? Or do we need to find specific ways to protect rights and interests in the “platform economy”? he asks. The second factor, according to a Kommersant source in one of the platform trade unions, is pressure on activists. “Remember the case of the head of Courier, Kirill Ukraintsev (he was found guilty by the court of violating the rules for organizing rallies.— “Kommersant”) — it is clear that the risks for trade union activists in the Russian Federation are higher than in Europe,” he notes.

Anastasia Manuilova


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