Workshop gathered Fairwork and unions to discuss the representation of cloudworkers

Posted on 30.11.2023
Clickworkers in Nairobi
Clickworkers in Nairobi (Callum Cant)

Author: Dr Jonas Valente

The Fairwork project promoted a workshop on 29 November to discuss representation on cloudwork (online remote work) digital labour platforms. Over 40 trade unions, confederations, and workers’ associations from all over the world joined the debate. The goal was to highlight specific challenges faced by cloudworkers to freely associate and bargain with online remote work platforms.

The Fairwork team presented the project and its studies on cloudwork platforms, such as the Fairwork Cloudwork Ratings 2023, the Translation and Transcription Platform Ratings 2023 and the Fairwork Sex Work project. The research conducted by Fairwork has revealed how these platforms are still far from safeguarding basic standards of fair work, including in fair representation.

  • In the Fairwork Cloudwork Ratings 2023, for instance, only two out of 15 platforms (Appen and Upwork) were granted a point for the commitment to a process of dispute resolution in which workers have access to an independent advocate who is freely chosen by the worker, or by an independent workers’ body.
  • In the Translation and Transcription Platform Ratings 2023, only one out of 10 platforms got the point for this threshold. A few platforms have signed the Crowdsourcing Code of Conduct, which mentions the relevance of the signees’ engagement with workers’ organisations such as unions.
  • In addition, our sex work research has found that sex workers face specific problems in digital labour platforms. The Fairwork team has been investigating the topic, analysing platforms working conditions and interviewing sex workers to hear their persepctives and claims.

Many trade unions and confederations presented comments in the discussion and shared their experiences. Some organisations have been promoting initiatives and engaging with platform workers, but it was acknowledged that the representation of cloudworkers still can evolve. Among the problems related to cloudworkers’ representation efforts are the international reach of platforms, the atomisation of the workforce, and the imposed self-employment conditions.

Another topic of conversation was the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s process of discussing and voting on a convention on platform workers’ rights. This has been a complex initiative with resistance from digital labour platforms. Still, many unions highlighted the relevance of following the ILO’s discussions closely in order to pressure for a protective and rights-based approach for all types of platform workers.

At the end of the event, the Fairwork team suggested new research activities and volunteered to collaborate with trade unions on events, courses, and other initiatives to discuss the realities and challenges of cloudworkers. The recommendations were well-received by the attendees and new events will be held in 2024, gathering unions again on this crucial topic.

The workshop was promoted by the Fairwork Cloudwork project, funded by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit). In addition, it also had the support of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) and the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB).