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Towards a Fairer Platform Economy: Introducing the Fairwork Foundation
fairwork.jpg

This month, I started work on a new project together with my new colleague Jamie Woodcock: The Fairwork Foundation. With generous funding from GIZ, we will get to spend the next year and a half figuring out how to certify online labour platforms - using leverage from workers, consumers, and platforms to improve the welfare and job quality of digital workers.

Today we also have a new article about the project out (in a new issue of Alternate Routes focused on 'Social Inequality and the Spectre of Social Justice'). The article explains some of our initial strategies for the project. The specifics will undoubtedly evolve, but you can get a sense of our direction of travel.

Graham, M. and Woodcock, J. 2018. Towards a Fairer Platform Economy: Introducing the Fairwork Foundation. Alternate Routes. 29. 242-253.

Summary

This proposal envisions a way of holding platforms accountable through a programme of research focused on fair work. It operates under a governing belief that core transparent production networks can lead to better working conditions for digital workers around the world. The establishment of the Foundation and a certification scheme will provide demonstrable impact for digital workers, customers, and platforms. For digital workers, it addresses the twofold structural weakness that they face: first, the lack of ability to collectively bargain due to the fragmentation of the work process; and second, the asymmetry of information between workers and platforms. The certification process provides an important means to address these two challenges, along with building and developing connections between workers and institutions like trade unions and regulatory bodies. New kinds of work require innovations in organising techniques and regulations, and the Fairwork Foundation provides an important starting point for developing these in practice. 

As millions of people turn to platform work for their livelihoods, it is no longer good enough to imagine that there is nothing beyond the screen. Our clicks tie us to the lives and livelihoods of platform workers, as much as buying clothes tie us to the lives of sweatshop workers. And with that realisation of our interwoven digital positionalities comes the power to bring into being a fairer world of work.

Join our London Digital Labour Meetup

If you are interested in scholarship or activism on the topic of digital labour and the future of work, then consider joining our regular meet-up series that will be held in London. We aim to meet on Thursday nights at 7pm, have a few drinks, and talk about topics related to digital labour, the platform economy, digital gig work, and online freelancing. The first meetup will be on March 30. 

Sign up at this list so that we know who to expect. We'll then be in touch with a location (probably a pub) once we know how many of us will be there.

Looking forward to seeing you there...

The event is organised by Mark Graham (University of Oxford) and Jamie Woodcock (London School of Economics) from the European Network on Digital Labour (ENDL).