We hosted two in-country stakeholder meetings for the Fairwork project in July. These meetings were the first part of operationalising the principles for fair platform work that were established at the previous meetings at the ILO and UNCTAD in Geneva in April.
On the 2nd of July, we jointly hosted a workshop ‘Towards Fair Platform Work’ in Johannesburg with Research ICT Africa. This interactive session brought together stakeholders to explore the challenges of fair work, discussing the nine principles and how they could be translated into criteria for assessing platform in South Africa. In attendance were platform workers, academics, and representatives from PicUp (a delivery platform), The Movement (an organisation of Uber drivers), the International Labour Office, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, the National Economic Development & Labour Council, the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers, and the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union.
Throughout the day the participants discussed the Fairwork Foundation and the project. It started with introductions from Prof Mark Graham and Dr Jamie Woodcock, followed by a presentation on platform work in Africa by Prof Alison Gillwald and Dr Onkokame Mothobi. The morning sessions focused on the nine principles of fair platform work, agreeing on the need for fairness in relation to pay, conditions, contracts, equality, communication, management, governance, use of data, representation. These were then contextualised in the next discussion in the South African context, considering, for example, what ‘fair pay’ would mean in practice.
The afternoon moved onto the certification process by picking examples of platforms and discussing how the process would work. The four different groups focused on Uber, domestic work (Domestly), delivery (PicUp), and microwork platforms. This was a productive part of the workshop which highlights the potential to begin the certification and ranking process in South Africa. The workshop finished by outlining the next steps of the project, with agreement from a platform to be a pilot study for Fairwork in South Africa.
On the 5th of July, we hosted the second in-country stakeholder meeting in Bangalore, jointly organised with the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. It began with introductions, including short presentations from platform and worker representatives. Like the South Africa workshop, this focused on the different challenges and opportunities in India. The stakeholders in attendance included local academics, as well as the president of the KSTDC Taxi Drivers Union, the founder of OTU (Ola, Taxi for Sure and Uber Owners and Driver Association), representatives from Alternative Law Forum, Microsoft Research India, the International Labour Office, the founder of Babajob.com, Housejoy, and Portea Medical.
In contrast to the South Africa meeting, workers were consulted separately about the project. At this meeting, there were concerns about ensuring that workers voices remain central to Fairwork. This is something that the project has attempted to do in previous meetings, and will ensure remains a key consideration as it moves onto fieldwork.
The discussion in India highlighted the important differences between how the principles can be translated into the local contexts of India and South Africa. For example, in India it was stressed that pay alone was not the major issue, instead the contractual stability of pay needed to be understood. Between India and South Africa there are also differences in regulatory and legal environments, requiring further attention as we move into the next phase of the project.
The next steps for the project are to begin the in-country case studies, iterating on the certification criteria. This is an exciting phase of the project where the ideas can be tested in practice, building on the range of different stakeholder meetings that have been held so far.