Track 2: Regulation of Labour: Actors, Institutions and Law

The regulation of labour is a dynamic process subject to power relations in public policies and collective bargaining. This track aims at gathering contributions on the policies, the practice and enforcement of labour legislation and collective agreements. The past decade has seen a growing impact of the supranational level as European policies have aimed at influencing labour and employment policies in the member states. Simultaneously, at member state level, nationalist political parties with divergent policies on labour institutions but similar opposition to foreign workers have grown. This happens against the background of a declining membership strength of trade unions and employer organisations, policies promoting a decentralisation of collective bargaining and opposition to the IR system by digital multinationals.

Workshop: Improving conditions of platform workers in Europe


  • Markus Ellmer, University of Salzburg
  • Thomas Gegenhuber, Leuphana University of Lüneburg
  • Dominik Klaus, University of Vienna
  • Stefan Lücking, Hans-Böckler-Foundation

In today’s world of work, platforms have become central entities in facilitating new forms of work organization (Hinings, Gegenhuber, & Greenwood, 2018; Kenney & Zysman, 2016; Srnicek, 2017). Labels such as Amazon Mechanical Turk or Upwork are well-known in the broader public by now; in every major town Uber/Lyft drivers or the colourful cubes on the backs of food couriers are integral part of the urban landscape.

While the majority of academic literature and public debate on platform work is concerned with the question how digital work platforms can create business value, extant research shows that the balances of power between clients, platforms and platform workers are substantially imbalanced, often resulting in bad working conditions for platform workers (Berg, Furrer, Harmon, Rani, & Silberman, 2018; De Stefano, 2016; Ellmer, 2015; Herr, 2018; Irani & Silberman, 2013; Schörpf, Flecker, & Schönauer, 2017). As a consequence, platforms workers, activists, unions, regulatory bodies, media outlets and scholars increasingly gain attention for debating the consequences of platform work for workers and society. Emerging academic discussions are accompanied by numerous of actions and protests against platforms, organized by platform workers and unions (Johnston & Land-Kazlauskas, 2018; Vandaele, 2018), baring whiteness of the need to rebalance power on work platforms.

These on-going controversies in platform work indicate critical changes of institutions, actors and practices of labour relations, resulting in a general need to synthesize and extend existing knowledge about ways how platform workers, unions and regulators aim at improving the conditions in different forms of platform work. This workshop aims at increasing knowledge about these issues and invites contributions dealing with the following topics:

Ongoing debates in platform work:

  • Terms, definitions and typologies: How can we capture and understand the phenomenon?
  • Relevance and diffusion: Reliable data on the phenomenon of crowd work is scarce. How relevant is the phenomenon in which areas and for whom?
  • Worker motivations: Why do workers participate? How do motivations differ across several platforms? How are these motivation embedded in the workers’ biography, current life situation and socio-economic status?

Working conditions in platform work:

  • Responsibilities and roles of platforms in shaping platform work: How do platforms and their digital infrastructures shape the working conditions?
  • Approaches for improving platform worker’s conditions at different levels (worker, platform and regulatory level): How can platforms improve their working conditions and give voice to their workers? How can regulatory instruments improve work conditions? How can unions operate and organize in these environments?


  • Berg, J., Furrer, M., Harmon, E., Rani, U., & Silberman, M. S. (2018). Digital labour platforms and the future of work: Towards decent work in the online world. Geneva.
  • De Stefano, V. (2016). The rise of the "just-in-time workforce": On-demand work, crowd work and labor protection in the "gig economy". Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, 37, 471–504.
  • Ellmer, M. (2015). The digital division of labor: Socially constructed design patterns of Amazon Mechanical Turk and the governing of human computation labor. Momentum Quarterly, 4, 174–186.
  • Herr, B. (2018). Ausgeliefert: Fahrräder, Apps und die neue Art der Essenszustellung. Wien: ÖGB Verlag.
  • Hinings, B., Gegenhuber, T., & Greenwood, R. (2018). Digital innovation and transformation: An institutional perspective. Information and Organization, 28, 52–61.
  • Irani, L., & Silberman, M. S. (2013). Turkopticon: Interrupting worker invisibility in Amazon Mechanical Turk. CHI 13 Proceedings, 611–620.
  • Johnston, H., & Land-Kazlauskas, C. (2018). Organizing on-demand: Representation, voice, and collective bargaining in the gig economy (Conditions of work and employement series No. 94). Geneva.
  • Kenney, M., & Zysman, J. (2016). The rise of the platform economy. Issues in Science and Technology, 32, 61–69.
  • Schörpf, P., Flecker, J., & Schönauer, A. (2017). On call for one’s online reputation - control and time in creative crowdwork. In Briken, K., Chillas, S., Krzywdzinski, M., Marks, A. (Ed.), The new digital workplace: How new technologies revolutionise work (pp. 89–111). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Srnicek, N. (2017). Platform capitalism. Theory redux.
  • Vandaele, K. (2018). Will trade unions survive in the platform economy?: Emerging patterns of platform workers’ collective voice and representation in Europe (Working Paper No. 2018.05). Brussels.


Workshop: Non-standard and new forms of employment

Challenges to labour law and industrial relations


  • Sabina Stiller, AIAS-HSI, University of Amsterdam

Although labour law and social security law have always been adapting to labour market developments, the transformation of the labour market has been speeding up in the last few decades, relating to greater fragmentation and increasing economic flexibility.

In response, a first trend has been new legal designs of ‘work relationships’ that have seen the light in recent years. At the end of the previous century, there was a lot of attention for flexible forms of work within the legal framework of the employment contract (fixed-term work, on-call contracts, casual work and others). In recent years, the spectrum of work has thus widened to a variety of jobs that differ from the standard employment contract. A second trend has been the rise of self-employed without personnel. The rapid growth of the number of self-employed people in many EU countries raises questions about the desired level of protection and regulatory framework for this group. Views on the latter include a broad spectrum: from "no intervention" (as they are small entrepreneurs); to “providing minimum protection” in case of disability and against payments below the minimum wage; to "all-embracing regulation" in the case of workers who actually act as employees but have not been able to acquire that status (‘’bogus self-employed”).

While the above trends primarily relate to new employment relationships, a third one focuses on new business models that seem to ignore existing employment regulations. They are referred to as the crowd economy and related terms such as sharing, collaborative economy or gig economy.  One example of the latter is the provision of transport by the company Uber. Many of these initiatives are linked to the opportunities offered by digitalization and information technology and at the same time, this trend creates significant societal dilemmas linked to labour law, including issues like equal treatment, dismissal protection, decent wages and social dialogue, as well as to adequate social security protection.

The main aim of this workshop is to bring together socio-legal comparative analyses of how the challenges to labour law and social protection systems - generated by the above described trends (increasing labour market flexibility and the incidence of non-standard and new forms of employment) are  addressed through innovative policy responses, social dialogue and social partner initiatives in several European states.
The various papers examine the consequences of the rise of non-standard and new forms of work in the Netherlands, Germany,  France and Hungary, in the light of:

(i) the impact of these challenges on the extent of protection by labour law/social security protection of (certain groups of) workers,
(ii) the responses in terms of government regulation, jurisprudence, and social partners’ collective forms of regulation,
(iii) the consequences for social partners, in particular trade unions’ strategies (e.g. to deal with potential erosion of membership).

Workshop: Leaving the Laval quartet behind?

The judicialisation and politicisation of public procurement across Europe

Karen Jaehrling, Institute for Work, Skills and Training, University of Duisburg-Essen
Aristea Koukiadaki, School of Law, The University of Manchester

The way in which public procurement policies are designed and implemented is increasingly central to our understanding of regulating labour standards along public supply chains, where workers can be subject to inferior pay and conditions. Yet the field of public procurement is a good illustration of the ‘long shadow of European case law’ (Schmidt 2018), whereby CJEU rulings serve to constrain the choices and agency of policy makers at the domestic level over the long-term. Most notably the CJEU’s ‘Rüffert’ ruling in 2008 imposed severe restrictions on procurement policies within member states that required private contractors for public services to guarantee minimum working conditions to their employees. Similar to other rulings of the ‘Laval quartet’, Rüffert spelled out the general principle advanced by the CJEU that, even in areas that are still the prerogative of national law, domestic policies must not undermine the four fundamental freedoms of the European Single Market (in particular cross-border competition).

Recently however, several studies have provided evidence of diverging approaches within member states that seek to limit the real world effects of the CJEU rulings and by extension the dominance of EU competition law over domestic policy (e.g. Koukiadaki 2014; Bruun/Ahlberg 2014,  Seikel 2015; . Sack/Sarter 2016; Jaehrling et al. 2018, Hofmann 2018). Subsequent rulings such as Regio Post, combined with the latest reform of the EU Public Procurement Directives (adopted in 2014), further challenge the broadly market-liberal precedent established by CJEU rulings, and open several channels through which public authorities can show greater consideration for social standards in external contracts. Thus, the ‘judicialisation’ of public procurement by the CJEU has not prevented, but rather has spurred the ‘politicisation’ of a previously largely administrative field.

Yet the new Directives and rulings did not simply supersede pre-existing law and legal interpretations; rather, they have contributed to a process of ‘institutional layering’ whereby social considerations are ‘added’ to economic and legal considerations within the same overarching institutional framework that broadly continues to emphasise market competition and choice. This potentially sends new signals to the market about both the desired outcomes and competition criteria pertaining to public contracts (not least because of the largely discretionary status of social requirements under the revised Directives). It also sets the scene for a second round of struggles at the domestic level about how public procurement can be redesigned to take account of both economic and social objectives, while remaining compliant with EU law.

The proposed workshop assembles contributions from several countries (UK, Sweden, Germany) that analyse these struggles around domestic policies and their interplay with supranational (EU) laws and legal interpretations in various European Member States. The contributions shed light on the various actors, interest configurations, and dominant legal interpretations that shape (and reshape) public procurement policy and practice across member states, and critically evaluate the extent to which the regulation of public supply chains across Europe is ‘leaving behind’ the legal and normative restrictions imposed by the Laval quartet.

Low wage growth

Decentralised bargaining in Australia and Denmark compared

Søren Kaj Andersen, FAOS, University of Copenhagen
Russell D. Lansbury, The University of Sydney Business School
Chris F. Wright, The University of Sydney Business School

This paper departs from recent debates in Australia and Denmark on low wage growth (Wright 2018, Andersen 2018). These two countries are typically characterized as ‘most different’ employment relations systems in as much as the Australian labour market is liberal while the Danish is embedded in a Social Democratic coordinated economy. The question – or puzzle – is why do we see apparently similar debates on low wage growth in these two countries? What are the differences and similarities in the debates; is low wage growth equally outspoken in the two countries; is it effecting specific parts of the economy or a more general phenomenon?

In answering this question, we adopt a two-phase approach, firstly presenting and discussing wage trends in manufacturing and private services in the past ten years. Manufacturing is included as this is the key-bargaining sector in the two countries to varying degrees setting the pace for wage trends in other parts of the economy. Contrary we expect that private services to a lesser or larger extend is lagging behind wage trends in manufacturing.

Secondly, we will do a case study of how wages are actually being settled in the two sectors in the both Australia and Denmark. Both countries have over recent decades been through a decentralization of wage bargaining, although this has happened in very distinct ways in the two countries. Australia characterized by a legalistic pathway based on the award system creating a floor for wages with the possibility of company agreements replacing the industry award. In contrast, Denmark is enshrined in a system of coordinated sectoral bargaining with certain bargaining competences delegated to the company level (Andersen, Kaine & Lansbury 2017). Further, this approach allows a testing of theories of sectoral institutions and their influence across national systems (cf. Katz & Darbishire 2000; Bechter et al. 2012). In this case by an in depth comparison of two identical sectors in a European coordinated market economy (Denmark) with a non-European liberal market economy (Australia) through a ‘most different’ case study lens.

A number of assumptions will guide the case study. Firstly, we expect that company level wage bargaining in Danish manufacturing is more encompassing compared to the Australian case, also meaning that Danish employees have a stronger position vis-à-vis employers than Australian manufacturing employees. This assumption is building on previous research showing that the negotiation based Danish employment relations system offer better opportunities for reproducing the local partnership than the legally enacted Australian system of company level bargaining (Ilsøe, Pekarek & Fells 2018). Secondly, we expect that wage trends in service sectors will be lagging behind manufacturing due to lower collective bargaining coverage and weaker trade union presence in both countries, although with significant differences between the two countries, as we expect the coordinated Danish bargaining system to ensure at least partly wage catch-up for service sector workers. Thirdly, we expect both sectors in both countries to be affected by certain global trends. These include a low inflationary economic regime potentially hindering wage growth; changing global value chains including manufacturing firms offshoring production and service sector companies employing migrant workers all affecting wage trends in the industries.

The assumptions will be analyzed and discussed in the paper.

The applied methods will include interviews with representatives of employers’ associations and trade unions in Australia and Denmark, statistical data, documents and secondary literature.

Coffee, cigarettes and coordination

Networks and the relational approach to wage-setting

Oscar Molina, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

The network as a theoretical framework or as a metaphor has also been referred in industrial relations studies (Saundry et al 2011, Fichter and Sydow 2016), but few of them have applied the methodology in a rigorous way. Networks have been used in industrial relations first of all in relation to actors, and more specifically, trade unions. However, when it comes to analysing the network relations underpinning collective bargaining, we find several references to the network idea in transnational or cross-border collective bargaining (Gollbach and Schulten 2000, Schulten 2003) but hardly anything when it comes collective bargaining at national level. One possible explanation for this lack of scholarly attention is the view that collective bargaining at national level does not conform to the idea of a network. In this view, collective bargaining would be better depicted in terms of a small number of actors who meet regularly and take decisions based on routine negotiations and with little scope for innovation.

The analysis of collective bargaining coordination has attracted the attention of scholars and policy-makers since the early 1990s, but has witnessed a renaissance more recently in the context of generalised de-centralization and the new constraints imposed by the EMU. Originally, coordination was presented as a dimension of collective bargaining considered alternative to centralization, as it focused on processes rather than structures. However, the reality was that all coordination indexes and scores made so far have tended to reflect structural characteristics of collective bargaining, and have provided very little insights on the processes and relational aspects underpinning coordination.

In this way, most studies have paid attention to the level where coordination occurs, assuming a correspondence between formal roles across levels and actors. A too strong focus on structures has resulted in limited knowledge about the actual mechanisms that industrial relations actors deploy in order to solve coordination problems. Despite growing research on the comparative analysis of collective bargaining coordination and its impact, we still lack profound knowledge about: the mechanisms sustaining coordination; how information flows between actors in the collective bargaining structure; the exact role played by different organisations / actors or the way in which actors and the different levels of the collective bargaining structure are articulated, including the national and trans-national levels.

The objective of the paper is to provide an alternative assessment of how coordination takes places in different collective bargaining systems and sectors. In order to do so, the paper adopts a behavioural and relational view based on the methodological and analytical tools of Social Network Analysis (SNA). By doing so, it will provide very valuable complementary evidence on collective bargaining coordination to the institutional information already available.

The relational view on coordination pays attention to the actual roles and interactions of actors, not their formal attributions in the collective bargaining structure. Social network methods are particularly well suited for dealing with multiple levels of analysis and multi-modal data structures, as is the case of collective bargaining systems in most EU countries. In particular, two-mode networks provide a specific type of network where individual actors are embedded in networks (organisations) that are embedded in networks (collective bargaining).

Strengthening and re-building collective bargaining

Gerhard Bosch, Institute for Work, Skills and Training, University of Duisburg-Essen

During the last several decades, income inequality in most OECD countries has increased significantly and the trend shows no sign of reversing. Such high levels of inequality are not incompatible with widely held norms of social justice and equality of opportunity.

It will be shown that the level of inclusiveness of the wage-setting system is the main factor in explaining inequality of market incomes for dependent employees, under and above the median wage level. By contrast, inclusive systems allow wage negotiations to be managed collectively by employees with varying degrees of bargaining power. The agreed terms are then made universal for all employees working in that particular company or industry or for the overall economy. If these agreements are to achieve macroeconomic distributional effects, they have to be implemented at an industry-wide or national level. In exclusive wage-setting systems, employees with strong bargaining power negotiate only the terms of their own wages and social security benefits, which means that the outcomes of their negotiations have no bearing on the wages and benefits of those employees with fewer bargaining powers, thus fuelling the social divide between well-paid and poorly paid employees. It is therefore unsurprising that the only systems that actually reduce income inequality are coordinated wage-setting systems with a high coverage by collective agreements.

In this contribution it will be firstly shown that a high coverage by collective agreement reduces the share of low-wage workers to a much greater extent than minimum wages. This is hardly surprising, since the pay scales negotiated by collective bargaining are generally higher than the minimum wage and extend into the intermediate or even higher pay brackets.  By comparing the distribution of hourly wage (in so called “wage curves”) of selected EU countries with a high and low coverage of collective bargaining it will secondly be shown that in countries with a low coverage the peak of the wage curve is near the minimum wage with low ripple effects on higher wages while in countries with a high coverage the peak is in the middle income group and similar to a normal (Gauss) distribution. This supports the hypothesis that the middle income classes are stabilized through inclusive collective bargaining.

Thirdly there will be presented a typology of an interaction between minimum wages and collective bargaining to understand the architecture and building stones of inclusive wage systems in Europe. Ripple effects of minimum wages depend on the overall architecture of the wage system. In the isolated minimum wage type (UK, Baltic states), in which the minimum wage is not combined with inclusive collective agreements, the ripple effects depend on decisions taken by firms and are instable and low.  In the direct interaction type (France), policymakers and trade unions concentrate on raising the minimum wage, which impacts on the entire pay structure through the mechanism of generally binding collective agreements. In the distanced coexistence type (Belgium, Netherlands), the interconnection is not so close, since collectively agreed rates of pay are higher than the minimum wage in many industries. In the independent collective bargaining type (Denmark, Sweden), there is no statutory minimum wage. The high level of collective agreement coverage means that the social partners are able to set effective lower limits on pay and require no state assistance because of their organisational strength. In the extensive minimum wage type (Hungary), there is an absence of adequate independent wage bargaining and the state tries to establish pay differentials in the labour market by introducing minimum wages graded by skill or qualification level. In the mixed models (Germany), the absence of one dominant model means that various models are combined within the same economy.

Fourthly there will be discuss possibilities to strengthen collective bargaining and rebuilding institutions for sectoral collective bargaining which has nearly disappeared in many countries.  The main focus will be on three instruments for institution building. The first is the strengthening of procedural rights (Sengenberger 1994) like codetermination which helps unions to organize members and thereby their bargaining power. The second is the extension of collective agreements. Often the criterion are too restrictive in an increasingly fragmented economy with high shares of SME’s and low wage industries with high turnover.  The traditional criterion of 50% coverage needs to be replaced by a “public interest” criterion. A high share of low wage earners or/and high turnover rates could be indicators of such a public interest in reintroducing collective bargaining to avoid poverty and high levels of in-work-benefits. The third instrument helps to build up collective bargaining in industries where it does not exist. Here it is crucial to avoid stalemates between employers and unions in the bargaining process. In Uruguay collective bargaining coverage was increased from less than 20 to over 90% with the establishment of “wage councils” with equal representation of employers and unions and an independent arbitrator in all industries. In “A Manifesto for Labour Law” a group of British labour lawyers proposed a similar model with „sectoral employment commissions“ and a public arbitrator (Ewing / Hendy / Jones 2016).

The conclusion that for reducing the inequality of market incomes it is not sufficient to raise the minimum wages. Fair wages rewarding skills, hard working conditions, and management tasks require differentiated wage grids which have to negotiated by the social partners.

Digital intermediary platforms

A challenge for the Nordic model, the social partners and the legislation

Annamaria Westregård, Department of Business Law, Lund University

» Full paper: ilera-2019-paper-110-Westregard.pdf

Workers in the new digitalized economy, crowdworkers, often find themselves outside the existing labour contracts, collective agreements and not covered by the existing legislation. Whether the crowdworker is regarded as employee or self-employed in the European binary system depends very much on the business model of the platform. In EU Law there is no single definition of ‘worker‘ as it varies according to the area in which it is to be applied such as right to workers, the social fields or the freedom of movement for workers etc. To this comes that the Member States decides themselves who is to be considered a worker in their national law. The definition of the crowdworker as a worker or self-employed is important as it gives the scope for legislation and collective agreements.

The protection for the employees in legislation and collective agreements where designed for   permanent employees with regular, full-time work and for temporary employees, with irregular working times and incomes, and those with more than one employer and the `false self-employed´, different problems arise. Therefore, several new and precarious forms of work in the digitalized economy remain in the grey zone. They have problems entering the protection in legislation and collective agreements, insurances and the calculation of benefits that could be in disadvantage for crowdworkers.

By tradition social partners enjoy a strong legal status in the Nordic model and the collective agreements is often the most important regulative instrument for working conditions, and only the collective agreements contain e.g. minimum salary and important supplementary social security regulations.  The unions are interested in organizing crowdworkers – both employees and self-employed - and do so already. They also want to regulate the conditions in collective agreements, but if the collective agreements are extended to self-employed and regulate conditions for them, it can easily create a conflict with the competition regulations and Article 101 on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (see FNV Kunsten Informatie in Media, C-413/13 Judgment EU:C:2014:2411). This legal conflict is not yet solved for in the legislation.

A new business model that has been rapidly adopted in Sweden, keeping pace with the rise of the collaborative economy, is a variant of the umbrella company where the platforms use umbrella companies as middlemen. These umbrella companies have a special structure. The performing party bids for work and, if successful, arranges both the work and the remuneration with the client. The performing party then makes sure the client has signed a contract with the umbrella company. The client is invoiced by the umbrella company, which in turn employs the performing party for the duration of the assignment. Once the client has paid the umbrella company, the performing party is credited, after deductions for tax, social security contributions, and the umbrella company’s commission. The parties rarely meet in real life, with all contact between them conducted electronically. One might indeed say that the performing party hires its own employer. This is a completely new construction and both the legislator and the social parties have difficulties to handle this structure.

In this paper I will analyze, from the perspective of the Nordic model, the problems arising for social partners as they seek to regulate conditions for crowdworkers subject to a collective agreement, as well as from the emergence of fundamentally new types of employers. I will also analyse the Swedish experience of the legislative amendments in labour law and social security, created to improve conditions for those with precarious work in the digitalized economy.

Labour law and on-demand work

An analysis of policy actors‘ ideas and strategies in the gig economy

Alessio Bertolini, University of Glasgow

» Full paper: ilera-2019-paper-96-Bertolini.pdf

The project developed in this paper is part of the broader ERC- funded research project ‘Work on Demand: Contracting for Work in a Changing Economy’ headed by Professor Ruth Dukes at the University of Glasgow. The umbrella project explores the current viability of systems of labour law in the face of an increased use of casual contracts, work on demand and ‘gig’ jobs in contemporary labour markets.

Although there is an emerging academic literature on gig economy work and on proposals for its regulation, scholars have hitherto paid very little attention to how policy makers and stakeholders conceive and think of gig economy work, also in relation to other forms of casual employment, and which policy solutions they are introducing, selecting and discussing and why.

The project explained in this paper explores different policy makers’ and stakeholders’ ideas as regards gig economy work and its regulation in a comparative perspective. It addresses the question whether and how these ideas can be related to the actors’ interests, cognitive frames and their embeddedness in the employment-related institutional framework of the countries considered. The paper uses the economic sociology of law (Dukes, 2018) as a theoretical framework in the conviction that only by considering the complex interaction between economic, social and political factors are we able to fully understand how labour law operates in practice.

The paper focuses on two countries, the UK and Italy, with very different employment relations systems and labour law traditions. While the UK can be regarded as a prime example of a liberal market economy, with a deregulated labour market and a fragmented system of industrial relations , Italy can be considered an example of a coordinated market economy with a highly regulated labour market, albeit only for certain categories of workers (Eichhorst and Marx, 2010; Checchi and Leonardi, 2016). In both countries, the gig economy is a relatively new phenomenon and the regulation of gig economy work is still very much ‘in the making’, with several debates among policy stakeholders’ on gig economy work and how to regulate it.

Using document analysis and semi-structured interviews, this paper explores how these actors perceive and think about gig economy work also in relation to the broader phenomenon of casualization of employment, that is their ideas in terms of problem definition (Mehta, 2010). At the same time, it investigates the actors’ ideas about past, present and future labour law and whether and how it is perceived as inadequate and, if that is the case, their strategies for reform (ideas in terms of policy solution, ibidem). Finally, it analyses whether and how the problem definitions and policy solutions provided by different actors can be related to the broader employment-related institutional framework of the two countries.

The legal status of platform workers

Do they have the right to form and to join trade unions

Siyami Alp Limoncuoglu, Izmir University of Economics
Gonca Yilmaz

The development of technology and the emergence of digital platforms has led to new forms of work organisation and task distribution. Digital platforms emerged by the combination of decentralized information networks, big data analytics and mobile digital devices. As a result of this, there has been a rise in non-standard forms of employment and work globally. A new type of employment is expressed as “platform work”.

According to Eurofound, “platform work” is an employment form in which organisations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services in exchange for payment. The individuals who provide services through online platforms are called “platform workers”.

Although they are called “platform workers”, a strong legal argument has already risen on identifying whether the relationship between these people and the online platforms fits into the definition of the labour contract or not.

One of the most important court decisions about platform workers came from England. A U.K. employment tribunal judge ruled that Uber drivers should be classified as formal workers and not self-employed. As the decision was appealed, there was no final decision on the case yet. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) in Australia has determined (Klooger v Foodora Australia Pty Ltd [2018] FWC 6836, 16 November 2018) that a rider who works in one of these online platforms is an employee. In Italy, on the contrary, a recent ruling has found that platform workers are not employees (Tribunale di Milano, 10 settembre 2018, n. 1853.).

The concept of platform work and workers are not well known in Turkey. The subject is not debated in academic literature nor in case law. For this reason, the workers of these platforms does not have knowledge on their legal status and the rights arising from their relation with online platforms.

These arguments and contradictory rulings pose a challenge in industrial relations as well. Since the membership to the trade unions is only open to “employees”, the growing number of “platform workers” are faced with a big risk of not being able to protect their rights arising from employment via collective solidarity. The trade unions, on the other hand, have a potential to increase their members - if and only these people are accepted as employees - and to keep their place as a key role player in this new “gig-economy”.

The purpose of this work is to study whether the platform workers are employees who work under labour contracts or not and whether they are able to enjoy the freedom and the right to form and join trade unions.

Platform workers centre stage!

Taking stock of current debates on improving the conditions of platform work in Europe

Markus Ellmer, University of Salzburg
Thomas Gegenhuber, Leuphana University of Lüneburg
Dominik Klaus, University of Vienna

This paper takes stock of current literature on platform work in Europe, discerns central debates and synthesizes knowledge on approaches for improving platform worker’s conditions at different levels (worker, plat-form and regulatory level).


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