ILO presents study warning of lack of regulation of freedom of association and unionization for employees of digital platforms
7 febrero 2023


Digital platforms . On February 7, ILO presented a study on access to freedom of association, freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining in the emerging digital platform economy. In this regard, the document mentions that collective bargaining and other forms of social dialogue can offer added value for the growth and expansion of companies and digital platforms that offer food delivery services or home-delivered food products, among others. It is expected that in the medium term the region’s legislative branches will generate a regulatory environment that includes provisions on unionization and collective bargaining for digital platform workers.

The study analyzes labor-related phenomena in the geolocation-based platform economy, such as coordinated collective actions (demonstrations, strikes and collective disconnections), the emergence of new workers’ organizations and platform companies, and even collective bargaining processes. In turn, according to the text, despite the fact that in different countries platform workers seeking to improve their working conditions have demonstrated against low pay and lack of job security, the regulation of the emerging platform economy is surrounded by legal uncertainty, which may lead to these employees being deprived of the right to participate in collective bargaining arenas and the ability to take union action.

The text also mentions that digital work platforms have numerous advantages for both workers and companies, as they help to generate new job opportunities and income, while favoring the reconciliation of working hours with daily life. In this way, it is fundamentally useful for traditionally disadvantaged groups of workers who face obstacles in accessing the labor market, such as women, people with disabilities, young people, refugees, migrants and workers from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, among others. 

However, the text indicates that empirical data collected from countries such as Argentina, Chile and Mexico show that the union membership of delivery workers working for digital platforms usually organize in informal groups through networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp, to discuss their working conditions and organize eventual protests, so that their claims for improving the current labor laws are heard. This type of organizing pattern stands out in the ride-sharing and meal delivery service sectors.

Next steps

The ILO recommends the creation of an enabling regulatory environment (through the advancement of bills in Congress and the publication of Executive Branch regulations) to take advantage of the opportunities of digital labor platforms, as well as national legislative frameworks to ensure that platform workers have the right to unionize and bargain collectively. In addition, it recommends promoting policies that enable employers’ and workers’ organizations to strengthen representation, develop collective bargaining and foster inclusive social dialogue in the platform economy.