Platform Workers and Collective Action

Platform workers and collective action

ABSTRACT

Platform workers can be qualified as employees or workers. If they are employees, they will be protected by employment laws, including laws on collective bargaining and strike. If they are workers, they may also be protected, but this is uncertain. This paper assumes that a platform worker has the right to collective bargain and to strike. These rights are protected under numerous treaties, including the European Social Charter.

 

The right to collective action can be used in various ways: e.g. a strike (meaning: refusing to work) or a blocking action. The Dutch Supreme Court has ruled in 2015 that a blocking action is a legitimate way to execute the right to collective action.

Main question: how do these rights work out in the gig economy?

Typical case could be: Helpling workers want a higher fee. They create a digital committee on an anonymous basis (out of fear to get ‘deactivated’) and claim the fee raise. Helpling refuses to accept. The committee threatens with a collective action if the fee raise is not accepted. The committee hires a computer expert that hacks the computer system of Helpling. Suddenly, the Helpling app is not accessible. The company receives the following mail: “Your app is blocked. Please make a press statement that the fee raise will be pursued and we will release  the app.”

Questions:

-is this allowed under present Dutch and European case law?

-is the damaging effect too big?

-does it make a difference that Helpling workers have no other effective means to strike? If they strike, another cleaner will be hired?

-is it relevant that the claim was issued by an anonymous committee?

 

I expect that the answers and a comparison between normal workers and platform workers will show that there is indeed a difference that justifies other means to bargain and strike.