News & Media

Workers’ rights cannot be the price paid for flexibility

3 June 2021

Statement by Senator Marie Sherlock
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht
  • Labour Bill would address the power imbalance between workers and app platforms.
  • Brings our employment code up to date and stamps out bogus self-employment.
  • Allows access to information about the algorithms that decide their pay and performance.

Labour employment affairs spokesperson Marie Sherlock has called for support for her bill to provide better protection for those working in the gig economy. Highlighting the stories shared by platform workers, Senator Sherlock said we need to update our employment laws that are now out of date to provide fair rights for all people in the labour market.

Senator Sherlock said:

“I launched a Bill last month which would deliver rights for platform workers. At the heart of platform work in the gig economy is an enormous imbalance of power between the platform and the worker. This impacts on how pay is set, how workers can effectively be hired and fired at will because of how the apps control worker performance assessment and in how work is offered and made available to those on platform apps.

“Platform workers are the essential link in the chain between the service provided and the profit made by the platform, yet they are exploited and squeezed to maximise profits for the platform. By depriving workers of fair wages, fair hours, paid leave, sick pay, heath protections, big platforms make huge profits. We need to fix this. People working in the gig economy should not pay the price for our convenience

“We know that platform workers have no real bargaining power, they have to bid for work, have no guarantee of paid employment and often have very poor pay. The reality is that many earn below the minimum wage and the system is ripe for exploitation.

“Our Bill changes that balance. It updates our employment code, recognising that platform work exists and would ensure that workers are being recognised as employees while also providing access to information about the algorithms that manage their pay and performance assessment. Our Bill seeks to lay the foundations for these workers to achieve fair pay to help prevent exploitation and address in-work poverty. 

“Crucially, our Bill would provide workers to access to information about their pay. This will level the playing field dramatically and stop pitting people against each other for work.

“Platform work arrived recently into our employment landscape and offers a real opportunity for many workers who want flexibility in their schedule. However, by its very nature the work is precarious. Often, platform workers are pitted against each other, fighting for jobs. It’s even more precarious at times when the work dries up, and workers are potentially left without any opportunity to earn money.

 

A copy of the Bill is available here. An explanatory memo outlining what the proposed law would do is here: https://www.labour.ie/assets/files/pdf/platform_workers_and_bogus_self-employment_memo.pdf