Towards greater fairness for gig workers in Ukraine

Posted on 06.10.2021
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Labor Initiatives, a Kyiv-based NGO and free legal aid clinic, is proud to join the Fairwork project and test the emerging gig economy in Ukraine against the Fairwork principles.

Using policy analysis and grassroots advocacy, Labor Initiatives aims to tackle the lack of gig economy regulations in Ukraine and promote better labor protections for gig workers. Legal experts Inna Kudinska and George Sandul, as well as communications specialist Svitlana Iukhymovych, will be implementing the Fairwork rating system in Kyiv.

In Ukraine, just as in many other countries, gig economy workers fell through the cracks of the COVID-19 social protection measures. Delivery workers of app-based companies are not classified as employees and, therefore, are deprived of basic rights, occupational health and safety measures in the workplace. In effect, they are invisible. As George Sandul mentioned in his commentary for the Kyiv Post, “The whole system of the gig economy [in Ukraine] is built on tax exemption and the evasion of the employer’s social obligations to the employee.”

Not surprisingly, gig workers have protested numerous times since the onset of the pandemic. In April 2020, app-based delivery workers in Kyiv protested wage cuts and demanded pay transparency. In September, Odesa-based delivery workers held a rally downtown, demanding greater accountability on part of gig companies, and protesting the attempts by gig companies to classify workers as ‘independent entrepreneurs’.

Thus far, Ukraine’s gig workers have few allies, mostly among unions and a handful of civil society organizations. Policymakers turn a blind eye when it comes to alleged tax evasion and human rights issues perpetuated by gig companies. Inna Kudinska, legal expert affiliated with Labor Initiatives and Solidarity center in Ukraine, notes in her analysis for Kyiv Post that gig workers were excluded from COVID-19 relief bills passed by the government of Ukraine:

“People within the gig economy, including couriers and drivers, will remain without protection under the current legislation… Many will continue working through the quarantine, risking their health, without any protective guarantees from their companies”.

Given this dire need to push policy forward, Labor Initiatives will use the evidence-based Fairwork approach to collect and refine data on the gig economy in Ukraine and to advocate for internal and nationwide policy changes promoting greater fairness in the gig economy. The Fairwork research in Ukraine will also provide a great opportunity to shape public discourse on the gig economy, raise the media visibility of gig workers’ issues and ensure their voices are heard.

You can find out more about the gig economy in Ukraine on episode 9 of the Fairwork Podcast, featuring Svitlana Iukhymovych and hosted by Robbie Warin.

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