June 22 2023 GM

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Glitter Meetups

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.

The Labor Reform and gig economy in Colombia - advances and pendings

We will talk about the Colombian Government's labor reform sent to the Congress in March 2023, specifically the section related to platforms workers' rights. The delivery workers were heard during the bill elaboration, but the platform companies have already presented other proposals criticizing the Government’s one. We will learn about Fair Work Colombia policy brief about this Reform's aspect - some articles in the proposal offer clearer and more transparent terms and conditions, but the bill focuses on a very specific type of platform or digital work, the food delivery, and it misses an opportunity to protect the diversity of the digital work and their workers.

  • Oscar Maldonado is the Fair Work Colombia's principal investigator and associate professor at the Universidad del Rosario.
  • Derly Sánchez is associate researcher at Fair Work Colombia and Universidad del Rosario.


Could you introduce yourself to the folks who are arriving in the chat room? How would you describe Fairwork Colombia and your roles in the initiative?

Deryl: My name is Derly Sanchez, Principal Investigator for Fairwork Colombia. I'm a  teaching and research associate at the program of Sociology of the Universidad del Rosario. I like to think and study about sustainability and social standards in agrifood production, working conditions of gig workers, as my research areas are the infections between technology, work and organization. I've been recently working tracing the conditions of gig workers in Colombia and have analyzed the value chain of food delivery platforms in Bogotá, Colombia.

Oscar: I am Oscar Javier Maldonado Castañeda, Researcher in the Digital and Inventive Methods Laboratory (DiSoR-LAB) at the Universidad del Rosario and in the project Fairwork Colombia.

Could you describe how the gig economy and the digital labor rights are developing in Colombia?
  • Oscar says: The Colombian platform economy is embedded in the complexities of a middle-income country. It is dependent on exports, and highly concentrated in non-renewable commodities such as oil, which makes it vulnerable to external shocks. The country also has one of the highest degrees of income inequality and labor market informality in Latin America.  Colombian history has been marked by weak institutions, evidenced in persistently high unemployment, informality, and lack of job opportunities. A considerable share of the population works in the informal sector, and lacks basic social protection and employment rights. Colombia’s informality rate is high, at over 60% of total employment.  Moreover, unemployment remains high. According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), in January 2023 the unemployment rate reached 13.7%.
  • Deryl adds: Yes, moreover, in the last five years, Colombia has received a high number of Venezuelan migrants, approximately 1.7 million, who have also struggled to make a living in the country.  Also, the Covid-19 pandemic worsened Colombia’s unequal social structure and roughened working conditions, placing the platform economy as an alternative for the unemployed, migrants, and people with low education levels. However, after an initial boom for digital platforms, the sector has experienced a decrease in demand and a tougher financial environment, with investors less willing to fund platform expansion....
  • Oscar expands the answer: Although it is difficult to calculate the exact number of platform workers in Colombia, according to a study of the Center of Economic and Social Research, Fedesarrollo, there are approximately 200,000 people working in food delivery and ride-hailing platforms. The study also finds that platform work represents 0.2% of Colombia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Fairwork assess the apps in different countries around the world. For the folks who haven't read about it, how does this work? What criteria do you use and how do you rank them?
  • Deryl answers: Yes! Fairwork evaluates the working conditions of digital labor platforms and ranks them on how well they do. Ultimately, our goal is to show that better, and fairer, jobs are possible in the platform economy. To do this, we use five principles that digital labor platforms should ensure to be considered as offering ‘fair work’. We evaluate platforms against these principles to show not only what the platform economy is, but also what it can be.
How Fairwork approaches workers organizing/unionizing? Better yet, is there any scoring or research on how companies support or block workers from organizing/unionizing?
  • These are the five principles:
  1. Fair Pay: Workers, irrespective of their employment classification, should earn a decent income in their home jurisdiction after taking account of work-related costs. We assess earnings according to the mandated minimum wage in the home jurisdiction, as well as the current living wage.
  2. Fair Conditions: Platforms should have policies in place to protect workers from foundational risks arising from the processes of work, and should take proactive measures to protect and promote the health and safety of workers.
  3. Fair Contracts: Terms and conditions should be accessible, readable and comprehensible. The party contracting with the worker must be subject to local law and must be identified in the contract. Regardless of the workers’ employment status, the contract is free of clauses which unreasonably exclude liability on the part of the service user and/or the platform.
  4. Fair Management: There should be a documented process through which workers can be heard, can appeal decisions affecting them, and be informed of the reasons behind those decisions. There must be a clear channel of communication to workers involving the ability to appeal management decisions or deactivation. The use of algorithms is transparent and results in equitable outcomes for workers. There should be an identifiable and documented policy that ensures equity in the way workers are managed on a platform (for example, in the hiring, disciplining, or firing of workers).
  5. Fair Representation: Platforms should provide a documented process through which worker voice can be expressed. Irrespective of their employment classification, workers should have the right to organize in collective bodies, and platforms should be prepared to cooperate and negotiate with them.
  • We approach Union's in different ways, one by being with workers in the street, by supporting their protests, then we've met with some leaders. In Colombia there's a Union of app workers called UNIDAPP. With them we've had meetings and we've advised some key issues for them such as data protection, algorithmic management..however they also have their own process of which we've been very respectful of. Their autonomy and their struggles are very important for us.
The Colombian Government sent their labor reform to the Congress in March 2023, specifically the section related to platform workers' rights. What do you think about the bill and how would it impact digital workers in Colombia?
  • First it is important to clarify that the labor reform did not pass in congress for the lack of quorum. It was not sufficiently debated and it will be presented before congress in the next term. Can you believe it?  Members of congress did not go to work to pass a reform about  labor rights!
  • The labor reform entitled "Work for Change" seeks, among other things, to update the Substantive Labor Code with a focus on justice in labor relations, within a spirit of economic coordination and social balance and is framed within the established in article 53 of the National Constitution of Colombia of 1991. Fairwork Colombia finds in this proposal an advance for labor inclusion in Colombia, a clear interest in improving the working conditions of millions of workers in the country, as well as a recognition from the national legislation to agreements and approaches signed in advance by the State before the ILO (International Labor Organization), especially with regard to the concept of decent work.
  • The reform, however, only contemplates the regulation of the work of delivery platforms (a very important step), and therefore only partially reflects the complexity of these forms of work. Thinking about this, we have evaluated the bill filed in Congress, particularly its sections concerning platform work in light of the principles of Fairwork (Trabajo Justo in Spanish), an academic initiative dedicated to understanding platform work at the national level. global.
In your Policy Brief of April you distinguished between "platforms geographically connected" and "cloudwork". Please, could you explain the differences between them and how this impacts people's work conditions?
  • There are two broad types of digital labor platforms. In the first—’geographically-tethered’ or ‘location-based’ platforms—the work is required to be done in a particular location (e.g. delivering food from a restaurant to an apartment or driving a person from one part of town to another). We call these ‘gig work platforms’.
  • On the other hand, ’cloudwork’ platforms (or “online web-based platforms) are platforms in which work can, in theory, be performed from anywhere via the internet and remotely.
  • There are many different types of online work. Some cloudwork platforms facilitate work such as surveys, data labeling and processing, Artificial Intelligence training, and image categorisation. Such tasks can take a matter of seconds or minutes to complete and are often called ‘microwork’. Other cloudwork platforms specialize in high-skilled freelance services, such as translation, design, illustration, web development, and writing.
  • Fairwork has its own principles for this type of work.
Have you noticed any interesting patterns or distinctions in how workers with Colombian citizenship vs workers without Colombian citizenship status are able to engage with platforms' promises on fair contracts/conditions/etc?  
  • Deryl answers: We've traced some of these issues in the case of platform delivery workers with Venezuelan passports. In terms of for example, accessing to bank accounts, platform accounts (which the hack a lot in order to get permission to work), and some kind of discrimination for the type of services provided.  
  • Oscar adds: Migration status matters... a lot. For instance, you don't find Venezuelan workers in Ride-hailing platforms like Uber. Why? Because of my driving license and insurance. You need a working permit or regular status for that. Most of the migrants are working on delivery platforms. The entry requirements are low, you need just a cell phone. No bank account is needed, because the platforms such as Rappi (delivery) have developed their own payment systems.
What do you think about how platform systems are being replicated in other fields, like the cleaning, pet sitting, translation, web developing services?
  • Platformization is an important phenomenon in the contemporary world of work and will be the future of work. It is part of the colonization of algorithmic management on other established sectors, in the global south it has intersected with sectors that are borderline informal such as care/domestic work, delivery and private transport.  However this is not exclusively the case as we’ve seen an increasing number of platforms of professional sectors such education (platzi,) medical care sector (Doc123) for (the irony is very interesting here) for medical professional assessing conditions of health and security.
  • Other interesting case is online sex work. After the pandemic, platform sex work (Webcam) has experienced a global growth. Such rise can be understood in the light of increased proliferation of ‘gig’ work in the Global North amongst previously ‘stably’ employed groups of workers and increasing the pressure for sources of income for informal workers, in both groups women have been particularly affected
  • And the division between global north and global south matters. Webcam or platform sex work is very particular as platform work. On one hand, it operates in a global market in which customers and workers meet at the platform regardless of geographical location, operating in a similar fashion to Cloudwork. On the other hand, most of the platforms operate in very specific countries, most of them developing economies in the East of Europe and in Latin America! Did you know that countries such as Rumania, Colombia and Ukraine have thousands of workers and have become hubs for the development of the ‘industry’? In this case, fragile labor markets, inequality, high unemployment of young women, and sexual stereotypes created on previous networks related to sexual tourism, have configured a propitious environment for the development of these platforms.
Could you recommend how to keep us well informed about the gic economy and digital labour rights in Colombia and Latin America?
  • Fairwork reports: https://fair.work/en/ratings/colombia/
  • Fairwork youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@fairwork1721
  • Fairwork podcast: https://open.spotify.com/show/00bDqkMF1NVn3tiKMdznFN?si=1b1f0ad6d1e94595
  • Visual campaign: Fairwork Visual Campaign Internal Form: https://fair.work/en/fw/fairwork-visual-campaign-internal-form/
  • Global: https://fair.work/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2022/12/Visual-campaign-GLOBAL.pdf
  • Colombia: https://fair.work/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2022/12/Visual-campaign-COLOMBIA.pdf
  • Ghana: https://fair.work/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2022/12/Visual-campaign-GHANA.pdf
  • India: https://fair.work/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2022/12/Visual-campaign-INDIA.pdf
  • South Africa: https://fair.work/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2022/12/Visual-campaign-SOUTH-AFRICA.pdf Edited
Also, would you like to share your contact (mail, Twitter, or what works better for you) to the community members, just in case somebody wants to reach you?

Oscar Javier Maldonado

  • Email: oscar.maldonado@urosario.edu.co
  • Twitter: @ojmaldonadoc

Derly Sánchez Vargas

  • Email: derly.sanchez@urosario.edu.co
  • Twitter: @JuanaYohanna
  • Mastodon: @JuanaYohanna@col.social