Workers’ rights cannot be the price paid for flexibility

Senator Marie Sherlock
08 May 2021
  • Labour Bill would give platform workers in the gig economy access to rights and protections.
  • Brings our employment code up to date and stamps out bogus self-employment.
  • Allows access to information about the algorithms that decide their pay and performance.

Launching a new Bill to provide platform workers in the gig economy with better protections, Labour Employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock said the State must act to provide adequate rights and protections to the growing number of people in the gig economy.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Platform work arrived relatively recently into our employment landscape and offers a real opportunity for many workers who want flexibility in their day. However by its very nature the work is precarious. Platform workers are often pitted against each other, fighting for jobs. It’s even more precarious at times when the work dries up, and people are potentially left without any opportunity to earn.

“Platform workers have no guarantee to work and earn an income. At the height of lockdown, many of us relied on certain platform workers for the delivery of meals, groceries and other essential items. These workers were another part of our frontline and essential in the fight against the spread of Covid-19. However, other platform workers like cleaners have had no source of income, as people limited their social contacts and household visits. This fundamentally precarious nature of their employment needs to be addressed.

“Some voluntary initiatives have already been taken by a number of platforms to put a minimum floor under wages and regulate workers’ health and safety. For example, Favor, a US-based delivery service, guarantees its drivers a minimum hourly wage. While its “runners” are paid by task, Favor will make up the difference if they do not meet the pay guarantee.

“Voluntary initiatives are welcome but a change in our employment code is needed to fully address the power imbalance that exists between workers and app platforms. The State has a responsibility to ensure that all workers, regardless of their employment status, have access to fair rights and protections. It’s time to strengthen workers’ rights in the digital age. We need to recognise there are new ways of working but that does not mean that these workers are any less employees. We need to add to our rules to make sure the best protections are in place for workers. 

“Labour’s Protection of Employment (Platform Workers and Bogus Self-Employment) Bill seeks to bring the law up to date and stamp out bogus self-employment. It would ensure that workers are being recognised as employees while also providing access to information about the algorithms that manage their pay and performance assessment. Our Bill also seeks to lay the foundations for these workers to achieve fair pay to help prevent exploitation and address in-work poverty. 

“If enacted, our Bill would set a floor of standards to ensure all work is decent. The use of technology to exploit the labour of insecure workers must be addressed. There are many positives to the flexibility associated with platform work, however a person’s employment rights cannot be the price to pay for this flexibility.”

 

A copy of the Bill is available here. An explanatory memo outlining what the proposed law would do is here:

https://www.labour.ie/assets/files/pdf/platform_workers_and_bogus_self-employment_memo.pdf

 

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