07 Aug 2017

The Platform Economy and Industrial Relations

Applying the old framework to the new reality

Zachary Kilhoffer / Karolien Lenaerts / Miroslav Beblavy

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How do platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo – and corresponding new modes of work – mesh with unions and European models of industrial relations?  This paper investigates the intersection of the platform economy, industrial relations and social dialogue. It provides strong evidence that workers in the platform economy are organising into new employee associations (unions) and are also being brought into existing employee associations. None of the evidence surveyed indicates that platforms are organising into employer associations or being incorporated into existing employer associations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that actors in the platform economy are beginning to engage in tripartite dialogue. The authors conclude that i) no overarching framework exists for governing or facilitating social dialogue between the parties involved in the platform economy, and ii) even if the existing framework is applied to parties in the platform economy, it offers a poor fit due to differences between platform workers and employees, and platforms and employers.

This research was carried out in the framework of a new project on Industrial Relations and Social Dialogue in the Age of the Collaborative Economy (IRSDACE), which is funded by the European Commission.

Zachary Kilhoffer is Research Assistant at CEPS, Karolien Lenaerts is Researcher at CEPS and Miroslav Beblavý is Senior Research Fellow at CEPS.