Tracking adherence to fair work principles

07 June 2019 | Story Helen Swingler. Photo Rawpixel.com. Read time 5 min.
Domestic cleaning service SweepSouth was able to show that it had actively improved working conditions by providing work-related insurance as well as the facilitation of worker voice mechanisms on the platform.
Domestic cleaning service SweepSouth was able to show that it had actively improved working conditions by providing work-related insurance as well as the facilitation of worker voice mechanisms on the platform.

Two months after launching the first-ever international ranking of working conditions and standards in the platform economy, Fairwork has released four new ratings for South African digital labour platforms.

Fairwork is a collaboration between the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa, and the universities of Oxford and Manchester in the UK.

The rating system offers a comparison of the best and worst working standards in the digital or gig economy. The platforms evaluated in the newest survey were Wumdrop, Domestly, Uber Eats and Nomad Now.

As part of a 30-month project funded by the Global Challenge Research Fund, UCT’s Professor Jean-Paul van Belle and Dr Paul Mungai (Department of Information Systems) measured digital labour platforms’ levels of adherence to five Fairwork principles: fair pay, fair contracts, fair conditions, fair management and fair representation.

These include evaluating whether a company pays the minimum wage and ensures the health and safety of its workers.

 

“By comparing platforms in similar sectors, the Fairwork ratings can serve to set best practices in each sector.”

Ratings a useful measure

Fairwork scores are useful to companies that want to highlight how the jobs they create are better than those of their competitors. They are also useful to regulators who seek benchmarks against which to evaluate platforms.

“They are useful to consumers and clients who seek to make more informed decisions about how they spend their money,” added Van Belle.

“And they are also useful to workers as they seek to achieve better working conditions.”

The ratings help consumers to make ethical and informed choices about the platforms they choose when ordering commodities and services such as food, cleaning services and transport – or outsourcing a simple task.

Oxford’s Professor Mark Graham, lead researcher on the Fairwork project, said the addition of these new platforms will allow a greater comparison among companies with similar missions.

“This is critical in the development of international standards in the gig economy, as workers, clients and managers will now be able to draw direct comparisons between competing platforms,” he said.

Van Belle, the lead South African researcher, said that the first-year ratings, released on 21 March, had already highlighted both discrepancies and best practices between firms in India and South Africa.

“By comparing platforms in similar sectors, the Fairwork ratings can serve to set best practices in each sector.”

Three new ratings

Three such comparisons are now possible.

First, in domestic cleaning services, Fairwork has rated both Domestly and SweepSouth. While both platforms were awarded points for fair pay, management and contracts, SweepSouth was able to show that it had actively improved working conditions by providing work-related insurance as well as the facilitation of worker voice mechanisms on the platform.

 

“SweepSouth was able to show that it had actively improved working conditions by providing work-related insurance as well as the facilitation of worker voice mechanisms on the platform.”

The second compares WumDrop and Picup, both involved in the delivery sector. The latter was able to demonstrate that it not only paid workers the minimum wage, but that pay on the platform also included costs incurred by drivers on the job.

It also provided evidence of a clear and accessible employee contract, as well as clearly signposted and minimal data collection. The latter refers to the data the platforms collect from their workers and whether workers are aware of this and have given consent.

The third survey compared Nomad Now and NoSweat, which achieved high scores of seven and eight out of 10 – the highest Fairwork ratings in South Africa. The platforms, which provide freelance work, fulfilled most Fairwork standards but struggled to demonstrate mechanisms through which they recognised worker voice, said Van Belle.

Workers said they felt their contracts did not always accurately reflect the nature of their work. However, NoSweat was able to provide evidence for its health and safety checks mechanism.

It is important to note that platforms are only given a score when they can satisfactorily demonstrate their implementation of the principles.

“Fairwork aims to encourage platforms to be transparent about the work that they provide and to ultimately create better, and fairer, jobs,” said Van Belle.


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