Good day! Last week, I posted my newsletter about the platform economy for the first time in a long time and I received a lots of nice reactions. Although I have not yet decided what the frequency of this newsletter will be, you will receive this next one a week later. In this edition, I have again compiled a number of articles that have appeared in the media in recent weeks and provided them with my interpretation and comments. And I take a closer look at the 1st anniversary of GigCV: a data-sharing agreement with platforms in the Netherlands enabling more than 50,000 workers to access their data on reputation and transactions that has already been used more than 11,000 times in its first year! Have a great day and enjoy reading.
GigCV 1 year anniversary!
Exactly one year ago, GigCV went live. GigCV is a project I set up after spending a year researching the issue of ‘reputation and transaction data portability for platform workers’. Going live, 4 platforms participated: Charly Cares, Helpling, Roamler and YoungOnes. They integrated the GigCV data sharing agreement system (and its API and legal documentation) into their platform, giving workers completing jobs through their platform access to their free PDF digital resume. They also agreed to participate in independent scientific research around data sharing with platform workers.
Now it was already quite a step that it had succeeded in putting data portability into practice: from the start, more than 50,000 workers had access to their data. This is because this topic usually remains stuck in a conceptual vacuum. That’s different with GigCV. Through an extreme focus on simplicity and avoiding complexity, we managed to get this project off the ground in a short time, without a business model. And then it’s especially nice when it’s used! Two weeks ago I announced that 11,000 resumes were downloaded in the first year! That’s a number I never would have dared mention at the start.
There is still plenty around GigCV in store for 2023:
- connecting new platforms;
- extending the standard;
- research into the impact of the inclusion of data on the position of the worker;
- research into the value of this data outside the platform market;
- securing the long-term continuity of GigCV.
Upon reading the list of participating platforms, you will also see the name of Helpling. This platform, depending on how the bankruptcy ends, will disappear from the Netherlands. An incredibly shame (and pointless), but what is nice to see is that after the bad news was announced, the number of downloads of resumes from Helpling cleaners skyrocketed. This indicates that workers are eager to secure their data now that their profiles will most likely be taken offline soon. Which provides me with another interesting insight for a piece of “exit by design” I am currently working on.
P.s. GigCV is currently only running on Dutch platforms. Some of these platforms also are active outside the Netherlands. This makes GigCV also available to those working in England, Germany, Belgium and France via affiliated platforms.
The ‘Platformwork Directive’: a European law specifically for platform workers, has been under discussion in Brussels for some time. This directive proposes reversing the legal presumption (employee, unless) and imposing certain transparency obligations on the automatic decision-making processes used on platforms.
It is an exhaustive process and at every (mainly online) meeting I attended on the subject, I did not get the feeling that people actually believed themselves that this was ever going to make a difference. Recently it became clear once again how laborious the process is:
“In December 2022, the council failed to reach an agreement on its position, so it remains divided between those who advocate a pro-worker directive, and those who do not. And the European Parliament, the third axis in this relationship, was supposed to vote this Thursday (19 January) whether the report of the employment committee voted upon last month will be the institution’s position in the trilogue negotiation. However, MEPs are divided, and the text could be rejected in a plenary vote that has now been postponed for two weeks (until 2 February), after 71 MEPs who disagreed with the committee report wanted more time to insert amendments before the trilogues started.”
Still, there is some progress. Today there was an agreement in the European Parliament. “The European Parliament votes to adopt the text on the Platform Work Directive. 376 in favour, 212 against, 15 abstentions”. A good step, but there is still a long way to go. Also read the very good read on this by Brave New Europe: “Gig Economy Project – Defeat for the platform lobby: European Parliament backs stronger Platform Work Directive.”
During the kick-off of the Dutch NWO NWA PlatWork-R research, led by Utrecht University, a presentation by Hanneke Bennaars further highlighted the complexity of the issue. She explained that IF a final agreement comes out of the EU, each country is then responsible for the implementation itself. After all, labour laws are national, not European. And, if I understood correctly, when a country itself has a ‘better’ alternative, this is always leading. It is not for nothing that platform work (the ‘gig economy’) is also called ‘lawyers paradise’.
Meanwhile, lawsuits against platforms also continue in several countries in Europe. For example, the court in France recently fined Uber 17 million euros “in damages and lost salaries to a group of drivers who argued they should have been treated like employees rather than self-employed.” Uber has indicated it will appeal. You wouldn’t expect it. Cases against Uber Taxi and Deliveroo are also in their final stages in the Netherlands. You could say that legislation (which I have a hard head in believing is ever going to happen) is lagging behind the lawsuits. And I keep repeating: where is the voice of the worker in this debate and who is the first to acknowledge that the gig economy is not a loose planet or silo and that we need a proper debate on the value and valuation of work in general anyway.
The kick-off discussed earlier also raised the question: shouldplatforms, like employment agencies in the Netherlands, become a separate category? While I want to delve again into why in the case of employment agencies this has been done (tips and links are welcome), I think this is not a good idea in the case of platform work. This is because I expect the grey area will only grow in the coming years and we really need to start seeing platforms as an organisational mechanism rather than silo organisations. Then you also get to the most interesting and relevant questions about really new issues. And then it would be nice if, in the meantime, the real reform of the labour market will also take place one day, so that there is no (or less) competition on employment conditions between the different contract forms. Because everyone (except the lawyers, that is ;-)) is done with that now too.
It has come up many times in my publications: the platform cooperative Up&Go. Here is a nice piece on BBC News about this concept, in which cleaners, who are only members of local worker cooperatives, together form the board and ownership of the app they depend on.
It remains a great example, but the question is whether this is a ‘platform first’ initiative, or a way for existing worker cooperatives to better organise and market their existing work. I go for option two. A lot less exciting and spectacular perhaps, but ultimately it’s about the impact on workers and how they have been helped.
It is a question that keeps coming up: how to ensure that the power of platforms is more equitably distributed. And what is the government’s role in this? In this article, an interesting angle from India.
“India is preparing to launch a government-backed ecommerce initiative to “democratise” online shopping, in an ambitious attempt to challenge the dominance of companies such as Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets. Open Network for Digital Commerce, a non-profit company set up by India’s commerce ministry last year, is holding trials in more than 85 cities including the tech hub of Bangalore, ahead of a nationwide launch next year. While companies such as Amazon run proprietary services controlling everything from vendor registration and delivery to customer experience, ONDC is an “interoperable” network, where buyers and sellers can transact regardless of the apps or services they are using. The open-source network would allow a customer using one app, such as fintech services provider Paytm, to find and order groceries from a vendor registered to another platform, such as small business hub eSamudaay. This can then be shipped by whichever alternative platform, such as delivery service Dunzo, that is able to do it at the fastest and lowest rate.”
Interesting about this initiative:
- Open source;
- Scale through interoperability (interchangeability);
- From the government;
- A way to get existing retailers online.
Will this work? No idea: in the end, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. The question is whether a purely technical infrastructure is enough to generate enough reach and whether the platform as a ‘private regulator’ can ensure that all suppliers can keep their promises to consumers. Because ultimately, this is the group that will determine whether this initiative will be a success. That “only 0.1 per cent of the country’s 12mn retail outlets are digitally enabled” gives little hope. And besides, the government is a co-investor, but it is not clear exactly what that means. But who knows, it might still succeed. Or at least deliver some interesting lessons and insights that others can take forward.
About and contact
What impact does the platform economy have on people, organisations and society? My fascination with this phenomenon started in 2012. Since then, I have been seeking answers by engaging in conversation with all stakeholders involved, conducting research and participating in the public debate. I always do so out of wonder, curiosity and my independent role as a professional outsider.
I share my insights through my Dutch and English newsletters, presentations and contributions in (international) media and academic literature. I also wrote several books on the topic and am founder of GigCV, a new standard to give platform workers access to their own data. Besides all my own projects and explorations, I am also a member of the ‘gig team’ of the WageIndicator Foundation and am part of the knowledge group of the Platform Economy research group at The Hague University of Applied Science.
Need inspiration and advice or research on issues surrounding the platform economy? Or looking for a speaker on the platform economy for an online or offline event? Feel free to contact me via a reply to this newsletter, via email ([email protected]) or phone (0031650244596).
Also visit my YouTube channel with over 300 interviews about the platform economy and my personal website where I regularly share blogs about the platform economy. Interested in my photos? Then check out my photo page.