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Meet the Fairwork’s team in Chile working to promote better working conditions for gig workers

Posted by Pablo Aguerareneses, 14.10.2020
Delivery worker

In Chile, the rise of gig work has been a slow process led primarily by hail-riding apps like Uber and Cabify. However, in the last two years, delivery apps such as Pedidos Ya, Rappi, and Cornershop (a Chilean-designed app operating in six countries recently acquired by Uber) have increased their operations, especially during the pandemic. The economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis have increased the number of people joining the gig economy. There are now approximately 15.000 active app delivery workers and 200.000 app drivers in the country. Since March, delivery workers have faced additional risks during their work. It is in this context that the precarious labour conditions of gig workers started to gain salience in the public agenda.

Resistance movements have already emerged in Chile with multiple protests by food delivery workers denouncing the working conditions they face and demanding safety and dignity at work. Everything indicates these protests will persist over time as the economic recession deepens. Only this year, three strikes took place in April, July, and August, led by food delivery workers. Changes in their working conditions and payment reductions led by some platforms triggered these strikes. Workers protested that some platforms changed their fees during the first months of the pandemic and that they have not guaranteed adequate protections, such as access to masks or disinfectants. Some apps started to provide emergency funds for workers in case of infection from COVID-19. Ultimately, these strikes have opened up an opportunity for public discussion about the vulnerable position of gig workers in Chile.

So far, three bills have been presented in order to start regulating the digital labour market. The most comprehensive one so far was presented in 2019 by two members of Congress. By classifying platform workers as employees, the bill intends to provide them with a range of rights on matters such as working time and rests, transparency in decision-making, data collection and scoring, among other aspects. To this end, the bill creates a new form of employment contract within the Labour Code, recognising the specific characteristics of the platform economy’s working arrangements.

Fairwork’s rating system is being implemented in Santiago, since late 2019, in order to analyse the labour conditions of platform workers. This research will provide unprecedented insights into the working conditions of gig workers in Chile. The team is comprised of Arturo Arriagada, Macarena Bonhomme, Francisco Ibáñez and Jorge Leyton. Arturo is an Associate Professor in the School of Communications at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Macarena is an Adjunct Researcher at the Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias Sociales at Universidad Diego Portales. Francisco Ibáñez is an independent researcher, and Jorge Leyton is a PhD student from University of Bristol.

Initial findings from the Chile team highlight the relevance of the gig economy in the country. For instance, the team found workers that had to stop working for the platforms during the pandemic. This is because of a combination of the fear to be deactivated from the apps if they were not available to take an order and a lack of resources to protect themselves from the risk of contagion.

The first round of platform ratings for Chile will be available soon. In the meantime, you can find out more about their preliminary findings at the recent UNU-WIDER webinar with Arturo Arriagada and Funda Ustek-Spilda.