A book analyses the new forms of work in digital platforms and their legal effects

 
Adrián Todolí, professor at the Department of Labour Law and Social Security of the Universitat de València.
Adrián Todolí, professor at the Department of Labour Law and Social Security of the Universitat de València.

Adrián Todolí and Macarena Hernández, researchers at the University of Valencia and Sevilla, respectively, have coordinated Trabajo en plataformas digitales: Innovación, Derecho y mercado (‘Work in digital platforms: Innovation, Law and Market’), one of the first books on the regulation of work on digital platforms in Spain. The publication was emerged as a result of the Congress on Work in Collaborative Economy, held at the Faculty of Law, which addressed this growing work phenomenon but which could lead to precarious employment conditions.

Recent mobilisations of the distributors or riders of the company Deliveroo have focused on the working conditions offered by some intermediary services platforms. Deliveroo or Glovo in the food delivery field, Airbnb regarding accommodation, or Uber or Blablacar in the transport sector are just a few examples of the proliferation of work through digital platforms, a growing sector that, according to the Researcher Adrián Todolí, “must comply with the existing legislation on the protection of workers and social security contributions”.

In this regard, last September, the Universitat de València hosted the Congress on Work in Collaborative Economy, which resulted in the publication of the book Trabajo en plataformas digitales: Innovación, Derecho y Mercado (‘Work in digital platforms: Innovation, Law and Market’) (Aranzadi, 2018), coordinated jointly by Adrián Todolí and Macarena Hernández. The publication deals, among other things, with the collaborative renting economy, the obligation to contribute as a self-employed individual, online reputation, workers data protection, or online cooperatives and billing without having to be self-employed.

There is some confusion regarding the classification of these service provider platforms. Some, such as Blablacar or Airbnb, could be included in the parameters that explain collaborative economy. This, according to Todolí, who is an assistant professor at the Department of Labour Law and Social Security of the Universitat de València, encompasses activities that involve the exchange of goods between individuals in return for an agreed compensation. This type of consumption was limited in the past to the geographical area and nearby circles, and has now changed as a result of the Internet and the possibility of connecting with people from all over the world and with common interests. Thus, this new business model and forms of consumption have been favoured by the digitalisation of society and the economic crisis.

Although the advantages of the so-called collaborative economy appear to be numerous, according to Todolí and Hernández, this model may conflict, given that it is not yet regulated by a specific legal framework, and that doubts arise around what taxes should apply to individual apartment rentals or drivers’ insurance of Blablacar or Uber, to name a few.

 

What is not collaborative economy

Platforms such as Deliveroo or Glovo should be included in the concept of Gig Economy, or work through digital platforms, characterised by being a model of consumption and services provision that is based, according to Adrián Todolí, on a new way of organising work. Thus, there is a job (not a good) with compensation and, usually, a profit, since a commercial and non-collaborative relationship is established. For this reason, neither of these emerging companies (start-ups), nor the famous Uber, could be considered collaborative economy.

One of the most controversial aspects discussed in the book Trabajo en plataformas digitales: Innovación, Derecho y mercado (‘Work in digital platforms: Innovation, Law and Market’) from a practical and complete perspective is the figure of the false self-employed, a very common hiring formula in this type of platform. In recent months, this labour relationship that has resulted in precarious conditions for workers has been denounced by trade unions and, even, by some specific employees. This is the case of Víctor Sánchez, the Valencian rider who reported Deliveroo and justice said was right because considered him a false self-employee. According to Todolí, “the increased use of this new form of work organisation is considered likely, and therefore, it will be increasingly necessary to determine who is a worker with work rights and who is self-employed in the new digital platforms economy. This question will determine the future of the existing labour relations model in our society”.

 

Gallery image caption:

September, 2917 Congress on Work in Collaborative Economy, from which the contributions in this book have been collected.

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