Conference Agenda

JS_RN09_RN17_04: Platform Work: Needs, Activation and Representativeness in the Era of Digital Labour
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Arianna Tassinari, University of Warwick
Session Chair: Davide Arcidiacono, University of Catania
Location: BS.4.06B
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Fourth Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

Session Abstract

This session on "Platform Work: Needs, Activation and Representativeness in the Era of Digital Labour” was jointly organised by Davide Arcidiacono, Andrea Ciarini and Arianna Tassinari.


Platform Work and Platform Workers in Italy: an Exploratory Study

Davide Arcidiacono2, Ivana Pais1

1Università Cattolica, Italy; 2Università di Catania

The platform economy fully represents new pathways of the global economy and the complexity of work in the post-industrial age. This depends on its tendency to generate non-standard and flexible activities that stand outside traditional forms of identification, protection and contractual regulations. Forms of work emerging from platforms can vary: first, there are the most complex, qualified and specialized, provided by professionals. They take advantage of this new intermediation between supply and demand to intercept highly challenging opportunities. Second, we find low-skilled microtasks that follow processes of global outsourcing and representing the last frontier of an informal neo-Taylorism. Third, we can also find forms of traditional work with different levels of qualification, which are offered first hand, yet taking advantage of the digital intermediation to increase the number of clients. Lastly, there are work forms requiring low qualification as to circumvent possible entry barriers of the market, or to overcome the traditionally informal nature of supply-demand matchmaking. Within such a varied population of workers, it is difficult to trace and clearly classify the workers’ needs and motivations, with the aim to form specific programs on both the regulatory and social protection level. Our analysis is based on a sequence of research activities:

• Mapping work platforms that are currently operating in Italy as an analysis of the reference scenario;

• A netnographic analysis of the "communities" of the subjects within the platforms, as well as in other social networking spaces, such as Facebook groups;

• A qualitative analysis (focus group and in-depth interviews) to platform managers/founders and different type of workers following Codagnone and De Groen’s categorization in four groups.

This Must Be The Place. Food Delivery Business Model, Riders’ Mobilization, And The City.

Filippo Andrei, Tommaso Frangioni

University of Turin, Italy

The focus of this research is the mobilization of riders in the food delivery sector in the city of Torino. Since winter 2016, a group of gig-workers started a protest to gain better work conditions. Through the participant observation of the mobilization, interviews with riders (considering workers of Foodora, Deliveroo and Glovo), and content analysis of the Facebook page of the collective, the research aims to investigate the relationship between emerging representations of urban space and technological infrastructure.

The perspective we adopt is informed by social shaping theory. This theoretical framework stresses the dialectical process between technology and society and between technology and social actors. Thus, it refuses rigidly deterministic concepts and taking into consideration the power differential of social actors in the governance of technological instruments (Flichy 1996). The peculiar characteristics of the technology limit the range of actions available to social actors, but simultaneously, they can manipulate technological devices and repurpose them. This leads to unpredicted uses, that sometimes might be conflicting with the original goals imagined by the designer or the organization that adopted them (Sartori 2012). This happens also in regards to urban infrastructure, a framework which is at the same structuring and structured by the actions of these two collective actors.

The theoretical aim of the paper is twofold: to reflect upon mobilizations in the gig economy, and their relationship with “old” labour movements and “new” social movements approach, and to discuss the multi-scalarity of platform economy as a simultaneously global and local phenomenon.

Not only riders

Andrea Bellini1, Silvia Lucciarini2

1Dipartimento disse sapienza roma, Italy; 2University of Florence

Platform work is not an exclusive occupation, it co-exists with other types of self-employment, usually off-line, as a secondary activity to integrate income and a way to define a professional identity. That is the case of many creative workers, particularly vulnerable ones, who are exposed to discontinuous jobs and wages, to which they often respond by holding multiple jobs, sometimes even outside the creative field.

Digitalisation can foster the workers’ well-being, depending on the capacity to modify – even radically – the employment regulation, the role of social and economic institutions – both national and supra-national – and the actors’ power relations. The current regulation is related to “the work as it was” more than “the work as it is”. Western capitalism has to redefine protections for an increasing number of non-standard workers.

As many scholars have already shown, the welfare capitalism’ regulation system is characterised by two different approaches to the non-standard workers (NSWs): a positive one, that think about NSW as “quasi-employees”, and a more disruptive other, considering the NSWs as “quasi-self-employed”.

Several times, in literature, it has been highlighted how the fragmentation of work and the diversification of the conditions of workers could play as a barrier to collective action, and to the capacity of industrial relations actors to represent their interests.

However, as many studies have shown, few innovative trajectories are being shaped both the traditional, longstanding union and the new forms of representation, as bottom-up movements, “quasi-unions” and so on.

The paper aims to explore new forms of representation in Italy and the Netherlands, focusing on the actions developed by “Smart” cooperative for graphic and web designers, working on and offline.

Resistance Against the Recommodification of Labour on Food-delivery Platforms in Germany: Structural Drivers and Individual Motivations

Denis Neumann1, Vera Trappmann2, Alexandra Seehaus1

1Freie Universität Berlin, Germany; 2Leeds University Business School, United Kingdom

The two main on-demand Food-delivery platforms in Germany Foodora and Deliveroo are publicly accused of practices of hyper-exploitation. Employment relationships are not or rather (Degner/Koch 2018) weakly regulated and the efficiency-driven algorithm lacks transparency concerning working hours, the payment-system and shift assignment (Schreyer/Schrape 2018).

Our contribution sheds light on the dynamics behind the workers organization in Germany. This is of particular interest due to the fact that the German protest is mainly supported by an independent syndicalist union, crossing national frontiers. Traditional unions are involved only in a few cities and the willingness to cooperate between both entities is low. Thus, our research so far shows that a rather unconventional and more radicalized approach to organization and action against the employer seems to be more attractive for the bicycle riders in German cities.

The paper examines the drivers that led to protest and solidarity among the bike couriers. We analyse three potential drivers against the background of the specific institutional and cultural environment in Germany: 1. the nature of precarious work, 2. the specifics of the economic sector, 3. The particularity of the young, partly international workforce. Beyond these contextual factors, the paper investigates the biographical experiences that decide on whether a biker participates in protest or remains acquiescent and how unions are perceived subjectively.

Our findings are based on expert interviews with young union members and activists, as well as biographical interviews with riders that decided to take action against the grievances surrounding them at their workplace.