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New Report Unveils Best And Worst Labour Practices In Serbia’s Platform Economy

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Fairwork launches today the first set of fairness ratings for the Serbian platform economy. In the first report of its kind, researchers from the Public Policy Research Center (CENTAR), Berlin Social Science Centre, and the Oxford Internet Institute evaluate the working conditions of the four most prominent platforms in the country (Glovo, Wolt, CarGo and Uradi-zaradi) and assess them against Five Principles of Fair Work: Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation.

The scores achieved by these platforms range from 4 to 0 (out of 10). The platforms’ low scoring reveals that there is still much to be done to ensure fairness in the Serbian platform economy.

The platform economy is not a new phenomenon in Serbia, and yet it only earned full recognition from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic – prompting users in urban areas to overwhelmingly embrace new transportation and food delivery habits. 

At first sight, things are getting better in the world of platform work in Serbia. Indeed, the pandemic stimulated the growth of digital work platforms, riding high on the overall growth of e-commerce in the country. And for many workers, gig work opportunities have represented a step forward in finding viable working solutions that offered decent pay and a high degree of flexibility outside the regular labour market. But testimonies from the field clearly indicate that the majority of platform working arrangements in Serbia are fraught with irregularities which deepened the already precarious position of platform workers. Serbian women are less engaged in the platform economy, with the majority of platform workers in the country being well-educated, experienced men between the ages of 30 and 40. There is no space for workers’ voices to be heard, with workers often forming online groups to discuss issues but their attempts to organise workers’ unions and strikes only achieving limited success.

The Fairwork Serbia Ratings 2021: Labour Standards in the Platform Economy report has identified critical issues such as problematic employment relationships and legal status of workers, lack of workers’ protections, and their collective representation. By raising awareness of the conditions of platform work in Serbia, this first investigation aims to assist the workers, consumers, platform management and policy-makers in making platforms accountable for their practices, while indicating areas for improvement in order for decent work conditions to be achieved. 

Ratings

Fairwork scores digital labour platforms based on five global principles of ‘fair work’ – Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation. Evidence on whether platforms comply with these five principles was collected through desk research, interviews with workers, and platform-provided evidence. The evidence was then used to assign a Fairwork score out of ten to each platform.

The Fairwork Serbia 2021 ratings evaluate the working conditions in 4 digital labour platforms: Glovo, Wolt, CarGo, and Uradi-zaradi. Uradi-zaradi and Wolt lead the table with 4 points, followed by Glovo at 3, and CarGo (the only ride-hailing company) did not receive any points.

Key findings

  • Fair Pay: Most platforms were able to evidence that their workers earn at least the minimum hourly wage after costs. Additionally, two platforms – Wolt and Uradi-zaradi – were able to provide evidence that workers are paid at least the living wage after costs.
  • Fair Conditions: Two of the four platforms analysed, Wolt and Glovo, were able to document steps towards protection of workers from task-specific risks, while Wolt also provided evidence about active development of a safety net and improvement of working conditions beyond task-specific risks. The two platforms have clear policies and practices to protect workers from work-related risks that include accidents and COVID-19 insurance that shields workers from income loss while on sick-leave. Both platforms were able to document the provision of health and safety equipment to workers.
  • Fair Contracts: Only Uradi-zaradi was able to provide evidence about clear and transparent contractual terms and conditions accessible to workers at all times including a specified timeframe for informing workers of potential contractual changes. 
  • Fair Management: Two out of four platforms – Glovo and Uradi-zaradi – evidenced clear communication channels allowing workers to interact with a human representative of the platform either through the app, phone, e-mail, or in person. They proved the existence of a formalised process for workers to appeal decisions resulting in penalties or disciplinary actions, even when they no longer have the access to the platform. 
  • Fair Representation: The principle of fair representation was not achieved by any of the platforms we analysed. There was neither evidence the platforms assured freedom of association and the expression of collective workers’ voice, nor that they had developed policies that recognise and encourage the establishment of a collective workers’ body. This leaves platform workers in Serbia with no formal mechanism in place to represents and protects their rights.

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