IGF 2018 WS #179 We need to talk about Uber: Towards Fair Gig Work

Subtheme(s): 

Organizer 1: Civil Society, African Group
Organizer 2: Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

More than seven million digital ‘platform workers’ around the world perform work outsourced via platforms or apps in the so-called ‘gig economy’ today. Lacking the opportunity to collectively bargain, platform workers have little ability to negotiate wages and working conditions with their employers, who are often based on the other side of the world. At the same time, the platform economy is rapidly expanding, particularly in developing and emerging economies, where there is sometimes a tendency to tackle unemployment at all costs – including workers’ basic human rights.The international nature of much digitally mediated work means that work also tends largely to be done outside of the purview of national governments, with very few employers paying attention to relevant regulation on the books in either their home countries or the worker’s home country.

This is a state of affairs that is not just undesirable for workers, but also for client firms and end-consumers. Client firms will want to avoid the reputational risks of outsourcing to poorly-treated workers; and research has shown that consumers who are able to do so are often willing to pay a premium to ensure that products they buy were produced under good working conditions.

The workshop will bring diverse stakeholders to discuss a draft set of principles and criteria for fair platform work on growing platforms like Uber, SweepSouth, MTurk, or UpWork. It will also explore the key challenges involved in online platform work for workers and platforms and of governance in the gig economy. It will build on prior discussions held in South Africa, India and Switzerland to discuss potential principles for platform work.

Format: 

Break-out Group Discussions - 90 Min

Interventions: 

The moderator will prioritise an interactive discussion with not only fellow panelists but also the broader audience. Each panelist will be given a maximum of two minutes to talk about his or her work (taking ten minutes in total). Thereafter five minutes will be used to introduce the draft principles, and the moderator will then divide the participants into breakout discussion groups to discuss a specific principle separately (and respectively) for twenty minutes. For each breakaway discussion group, one in-room person will be tasked to gather input from the online participants too. The remaining time will be used to report back and discuss ways forward.

Diversity: 

The proposed panelists reflect diversity in terms of gender, geography (including people from developed and developing regions in both the global North and global South), stakeholder groups (e.g. including representatives from platforms, platform workers, government or IGO participants, civil society, and academics) and policy perspectives. Where diversity is difficult to achieve in the room due to resource restraints involved in bringing people to the IGF, we believe their perspectives are also reflected in the work which will be presented at the start of the session - including the results of individual surveys conducted with stakeholders, and the outcomes from multistakeholder workshop held in South Africa, India and Switzerland.

In the workshop the work of the Fairwork Foundation, an organisation that highlights best and worst practices in the emerging platform economy, will be introduced, along with the findings of innovative research conducted by Research ICT Africa and focusing on platform workers, their experiences, labour processes, and the organisation of their work in South Africa.

Following this discussion, the workshop will actively engage all participants on the issue of what standards platforms and their workers should be held to, along with the possibility of offering a kitemark or certification to platforms who achieve minimum work standards in developed and developing countries alike.

Discussion Facilitation: 

As noted, the moderator will prioritise an interactive discussion with not only fellow panelists but also the broader audience. The chosen session format - breakaway discussion groups - is particularly useful to promote interactivity, and will enable the organizers to gain valuable input from all participants (including speakers, in-person and online participants) on the proposed conditions and principles for fair work in the digital gig economy.

Each panelist will be given a maximum of two minutes to talk about his or her work (taking ten minutes in total). Thereafter five minutes will be used to introduce the draft principles, and the moderator will then divide the participants into breakout discussion groups to discuss a specific principle separately (and respectively) for twenty minutes. For each breakaway discussion group, one in-room person will be tasked to gather input from the online participants too. The remaining time will be used for an interactive discussion between all participants to report back and discuss ways forward.

Online Participation: 

As suggested by the MAG, the session will train a specific online moderator who will assume responsibility for giving online attendees a separate queue and microphone, which will rotate equally with the mics in the room. The workshop moderator will keep the online participation session open and will be in close communication with the workshop’s trained online moderator to make any alterations necessary as they arise. For each breakaway discussion group, one in-room person will be tasked to gather input from the online participants too.

Reference Document: http://www.fair.work

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678