Spain joins the Fairwork Project to research the working conditions of platform workers

Posted on 04.03.2022
Fairwork Spain blog
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A Spanish team from Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) joins the Fairwork project. The goal of the Fairwork Spain project will be to assess the effects of new platform work models on working and living conditions, and to promote a platform economy model in Spain that is respectful of the social and labour rights of workers.

Fairwork is an action-research project that rates the working conditions of platforms based on five principles of fair work – fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair representation. The project is currently producing annual ratings in 26 countries, including many countries in Europe and Latin America. 

This Fairwork research in Spain will analyse seven digital platforms operating in the fourth largest economy of the EU. The use of digital platform services in Spain is widespread. A recent study found two-thirds of Spanish consumers have used digital delivery platforms. Spain is also home to some of the most important international companies or digital unicorns, such as Glovo, which have “globalised” their labour and organisational model. The empirical evaluation of these seven platforms will be used to obtain an initial overview of the labour standards in the Spanish platform economy. 

In 2021 the Spanish government and Parliament passed a ground-breaking regulation on delivery work through digital platforms that is innovative, and even considered a model for the EU and beyond. This regulation, which is now in effect, mandates that platform workers in the delivery sector be considered salaried workers. The Fairwork Spain team will research (i) the effects of this regulation on working conditions since it came to effect, (ii) how effective it is in improving labour standards, (iii) to what extent it is being “respected” or “accepted” by the platforms affected, and their strategies to apply or reject it, and (iv) possible changes that workers affected by the new regulation are experiencing. Therefore, launching this project within the Fairwork network will enable an exploratory analysis of the laboratory that the digital platform sector is becoming under this new regulation. Specifically, it will allow our team to analyse whether this new regulatory framework is improving working conditions, as well as its possible limitations. 

With the launch of the Fairwork project in Spain, our objective is to improve available knowledge on the impact of the platform economy on working and employment conditions in the Spanish labour market. This is an essential prerequisite for any practical action that may be taken in this sector of the economy. Additionally, we will work to promote further debates in Spain on the importance and possibility of a platform economy that is compatible with job quality and the safeguarding of workers’ rights. 

For instance, with the entry into force of that new Spanish legislation on digital platform work, there is now an obligation for platforms to negotiate working conditions with worker representatives. Therefore, the results of this project could assist industrial relations actors to identify relevant aspects for the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements. These negotiations have already started from the end of 2021 in some of the most important platforms of the sectors that will be scored based on the Fairwork principles. Moreover, we hope the Fairwork methodology, metrics and indicators can be translated or adapted to other sectors of the Spanish digital economy, so that they can be used in future for discussion. 

The Fairwork Spain team is comprised by researchers from Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM) and University of Valladolid (Uva). Alberto Riesco-Sanz and Arturo Lahera-Sánchez will coordinate the team and develop the fieldwork interviews and the analysis with María Arnal, Ana Negro, Álvaro Briales, Antonio Ramírez, Juan-Carlos Revilla and Kiko Tovar. The Fairwork Spain Project will be developed between January and December 2022.  

Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), the most representative union in Spain, has agreed to fund the research project. The union has guaranteed the absolute independence of the research team when using and applying the Fairwork methodology, as well as with the interpretation of fieldwork results and the content of the ratings obtained by the platforms. The union’s interest in the research lies in broadening its knowledge of the labour characteristics of the digital platform economy to incorporate this information into future union activities.