Uruguay joins the Fairwork network

Posted on 02.03.2023
Delivery rider in Uruguay
(PC: DFLC Prints via Shutterstock)

Fairwork is excited to announce that Universidad Católica del Uruguay (UCU) has joined our global network!

Fairwork is committed to highlighting the best and worst working conditions in the platform economy globally, and the Fairwork Uruguay team will be evaluating prominent digital labour platforms in Uruguay against Fairwork’s five principles of fair work.

The Fairwork Uruguay team will be led by Principal Investigator Federico Rosenbaum Carli, together with team members Matías Dodel, Eloísa González, and María Inés Martínez Penadés from UCU.

In recent years, gig work has become increasingly prevalent in Uruguay, as it has in many other countries around the world. This type of work, typically characterised by short-term contracts or freelance work (at least formally), has both benefits and drawbacks for workers, businesses, and society as a whole.

A key legal question is whether or not these types of work fall under existing labour laws. The importance of this issue is reflected in the radical consequences that categorising this type of work entails; whether all the rights enshrined in the labour law are assigned to workers, or if they are deprived of them.

Multiple conflicts between workers and platforms have been resolved by the courts. Uber, for example is often at the centre of legal battles due to the nature of the relationship between drivers and the company. Of the four total labour Appeals courts that exist in Uruguay, three of them have already ruled against Uber, agreeing that drivers are dependent workers who should have the same rights as a traditional employees.

In this context, however, a bill has recently been proposed which opts for a regulation model providing only minimal benefits to platform workers, such as Uber’s drivers, without weighing in on the problem of legal classification of worker or independent contractor.

As in many places around the world, the issue of gig work is politically contentious in Uruguay. Some politicians argue that gig work, along with its classification of workers as independent, is a necessary part of a modern economy—that it provides flexibility as well as opportunities for workers. Others argue that gig work is exploitative; it undermines traditional labour protections, and that companies exert substantial control over workers while refusing them social protections they both deserve and are entitled to.

Socially, gig work is seen as a double-edged sword in Uruguay. On one hand, it allows for more flexible work arrangements and can provide a way for people to earn money outside of traditional employment. Particularly, it allows for vulnerable groups (women, immigrants, etc.) to enter the labour market more easily. On the other hand, gig work is often precarious and uncertain, and it seldom provides workers with the same benefits and protections as traditional employment.

Gig work in Uruguay, then, is a complex and multifaceted issue, accompanied by complex legal, political, and social implications. While it can provide benefits, such as flexibility and opportunity, it also has drawbacks, such as lack of traditional labour protections and precariousness. It is thus important for policymakers, businesses, and workers to consider these issues as they continue to shape the gig economy in Uruguay and to ensure that no worker is denied the fair working conditions they deserve.

The Fairwork team will contribute to improving the working conditions of workers in the gig economy, by bringing the stakeholders together to engage in dialogue, generating awareness in society a whole; more specifically among relevant policy makers, and to hold platforms to account for poor labour practices.