The Fairwork Austria 2022 Report assesses working conditions in the Austrian platform economy. For the first time, 6 popular digital labour platforms in the food delivery (Lieferando, mjam), grocery delivery (Alfies), ride hailing (Bolt, Uber) and cleaning (ExtraSauber) sectors have been scored out of ten, against the five Fairwork Principles: fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation. Ranging from 1 to 8, the scores indicate big differences in the quality of working conditions offered by platforms, with substantial room for improvement across the spectrum.
Historically, the Austrian labour market has been characterised by a strong system of “social partnership”. This neo-corporatist arrangement balances the interests of labour, represented by unions, the Chamber of Labour and statutory workers’ councils on one side of the fulcrum, and capital, represented by employer organisations such as the Austrian Chamber of Commerce on the other. The stability of this system does yield benefits for employees, for example around 98% of workers in the private sector are covered by collective bargaining agreements.
While employment in Austria is comparatively high, developments primarily driven by crises since the 1980s have resulted in the rise of unemployment, as well as the expansion of non-standard, low-paid and precarious work; disproportionately the work of women and migrants. Union membership has collapsed too: from 60.1% in 1960 to 26.3% in 2019. Because collective bargaining agreements determine minimum wages by sector, as opposed to a state guaranteed minimum wage, decreasing union coverage has provided fertile ground for the flourishing of the Austrian platform economy.
The scores contained in this report constitute an independent and reliable evaluation of the extent to which the assessed platforms provide fair working conditions to their workers in Austria.
Fairwork scores digital labour platforms based on five global principles of ‘fair work’ – Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation. Evidence on whether platforms comply with these five principles was collected through desk research, interviews with workers, and platform-provided evidence. The evidence was then used to assign a Fairwork score out of ten to each platform.
Lieferando, the only platform offering employment contracts to all its workers, tops the ranking table with 8 points. However, Liefereando still failed to meet the thresholds for equity in the management process and democratic governance. In second place is the cleaning services platform, ExtraSauber, with just 5 points; Mjam achieved 4; Alfies and Uber 2 each; and Bolt brings up the rear with 1 point. Alfies, Uber and Bolt achieved particularly low scores, indicating drastic need for the improvement of their working conditions in the ride-hailing sector.
Fair Pay: Only 3 platforms, Lieferando, Alfies and ExtraSauber, in Austria could evidence that they provide earnings to all their workers that exceed the minimum wage after costs. As there is no statutory minimum wage in Austria, the ratings use the at-risk-of-poverty threshold (9.32 EUR/hour gross) which is also a common indicator for in-work poverty.
Only Lieferando achieved the advanced point by showing that it provides hourly earnings on a par with the living wage threshold ensured by collective bargaining agreements.
Fair Conditions: 4 of the 6 platforms (Lieferando, Mjam, Uber and ExtraSauber) were able to evidence that they take reasonable measures to protect workers from risks that arise on the job. In particular, many platforms were able to evidence some form of COVID-19 response, including the provision of personal protective equipment to workers. Some platforms also demonstrated that they mitigate task-specific risks by providing protective clothing, online safety tutorials, or on-site training.
Only Lieferando, which provides all their workers with an employment contract, met the second point for Fair Conditions by allowing access to paid sick, holiday, and parental leave options as indicated by the labour laws. In contrast, platforms that work on a self-employment (Selbstständigkeit) or free service contract model (Freier Dienstvertrag) failed to provide these measures (in an equivalent form).
Fair Contracts: All platform companies have clear and accessible terms and conditions.
For the second threshold however, only Lieferando was able to evidence that there are no unfair clauses in the contracts. Our findings indicate that platforms using a subcontracting model rarely monitor their subcontractors vis-à-vis working conditions, and whether they meet the necessary industry standards. In some cases, platform contracts and terms and conditions also contain outright unfair clauses, for example excluding all liability.
Fair Management: Most digital labour platforms in Austria could demonstrate that they have channels for workers to communicate with a human representative and, in many cases, these channels are considered reliable and effective. However, only three, (ExtraSaube , Lieferando, Mjam), could show they also provide workers with processes to meaningfully appeal disciplinary actions and other important decisions.
Despite the prevalence of migrant workers in the Austrian platform economy, only a few platforms could evidence anti-discrimination policies. Moreover, their effectiveness to address discriminatory behaviour by, for instance, subcontractors and customers, and to promote inclusion, remains questionable.
Fair Representation: While three platforms could point to some mechanisms for workers to express their voice, none of them fully recognises and cooperates with an independent collective body that represents all of its workers, regardless of their contractual status. Platforms must act urgently to ensure collective representation rights for their workers.
Soon available in German!
The Fairwork Pledge
As part of Fairwork’s commitment to making platforms accountable for their labour practices, we have launched the Fairwork Pledge. This pledge aims to encourage other organisations to support decent labour practices in the platform economy, guided by the five principles of fair work.
Organisations like universities, schools, businesses, investors and charities that make use of platform labour can make a difference by supporting platforms that offer better working conditions. Organisations have the option to sign up to the Pledge as an official Fairwork Supporter or an official Fairwork Partner. Those signing up to be a Supporter must demonstrate their support for fairer platform work publicly and provide their staff with appropriate resources to make informed decisions about what platforms to use. Becoming a Fairwork Partner entails making a public commitment to implement changes in their own internal practices, such as committing to using better-rated platforms when there is a choice.