Ben Wray – Platform Workers Unite: Global Digital Workers’ Conference June 25-26th

The platform giants are organised transnationally, so platform workers need to organise at that level too. The Gig Economy Project previews an important new initiative to co-ordinate platform workers internationally.

Ben Wray is a freelance journalist leading BRAVE NEW EUROPE’S Gig Economy Project. He also produces a morning newsletter called Source Direct on Scottish politics, which you can sign-up to here:

This series of articles concerning the Gig Economy in the EU was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Lipman-Miliband Trust  

On 25-26 June, a virtual conference will assemble to establish a global platform for the defence of workers’ rights in the platform economy. 

The ambitious “Global Digital Workers’ Conference” will include organisations involved in organising platform workers in the US, Spain, France and the UK. 

It is the logical next step following the founding convention of the International Alliance of App-Based Transport Workers (IAATW) on 29-30 January of this year in Britain in that it broadens the base of workers and develops the network further.

“This is the opportunity to join the first global initiative of workers in defence of their rights against the abuses by transnational companies in the platform economy, from the workers in the so-called ‘gig economy’ to the ‘false self-employed’ or ‘independent contractor’ figures,” Isabel Chacon, of the Catalan economic innovation co-operative Ekona and one of the conference organisers, said.

Ekona have written on The Gig Economy Project previously about the transnational dimensions of many platform giants.

“We must bear in mind that some of these companies are transnationals with large economic and geopolitical interests, which have extremely complex structures that allow them to spread out over different parts of the world…This opacity increases profitability for initial investors, but it also has the effect of making union organising and advocacy more complicated.”

The conference is not a talking shop; it aims to ratify a set of principles, create an organisational structure and initial strategy of action, and set-up a number of commissions to take specific work forward in areas such as research and digital organising. It is the culmination of a carefully collaborated process based on an analysis of the need for joint-organisation at the international level to combat the transnational character of platform corporations. 

Platform companies gain a number of advantages from organising itself across borders, including exploiting the unevenness of labour conditions globally and devising complex tax structures located across multiple domains for the purposes of tax avoidance and evasion. Global organisation is also necessary to maintain monopoly position in key consumer markets, which requires significant lobbying power in the various regulatory centres of the global economy. 

Parallel labour organisation across the supply chain and through counter-advocacy/lobbying work therefore holds out the possibility of negating at least some of the advantages of transnational organisation for capital.

The conference will be addressed by Alberto ‘Tito’ Alvarez of the Taxi Project 2.0 in Spain, who has written for The Gig Economy Project previously on their work to “develop and build new and complementary forms of struggle” to counteract “Uberisation”. Alvarez and his comrades in the Elite Taxi Association have been successful in forcing Uber out of Barcelona.

Jean-Daniel Zamor of the Collective of Autonomous Deliverers of Paris (CLAP), Núria Soto of the RidersXRights in Spain, and Manuel Ramos and Mike Long of the Mobile Workers’ Alliance in the US.

Ben Wray will also address the conference on behalf BRAVE NEW EUROPE’S Gig Economy Project, as well as Sergi Cutillas from Ekona. 

For full timetable for the conference and to register individually or as an organisation for the event, follow the link here.

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