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Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work. National context analysis: Italy

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Abstract

A recent development on European labour markets, platform work, has attracted significant attention in academic and policy circles (Eurofound, 2015). Still, much of the available evidence is anecdotal, and there is limited understanding of the implications of platform work for the labour market and for the workers. There is no uniform definition for platform work or related concepts in Italy. For this report, platform work takes its definition from Eurofound (2018) as follows: Platform work refers to an employment form that uses an online platform to enable organisations or individuals (workers) to access other organisations or individuals (clients) to solve specific problems or to provide specific services in exchange for payment. Thus, the research focus is on online platforms matching supply and demand for paid labour. The main features of platform work, as understood in this report, are: Paid work organised through online platforms; three parties involved, including the online platform, client and worker; aim is to conduct specific tasks or solve specific problems; form of outsourcing/contracting out; break-down of ‘jobs’ into ‘tasks’; on-demand services. This working paper is the country contribution for Italy for Eurofound’s research project ‘Digital age: Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work’. It explores the context of platform work in Italy in terms of the applicable regulatory frameworks as well as the organisation and representation of platform workers in the country. The analysis is based on desk research and 7 semi-structured interviews with experts from academia (3), policymakers (1) and representatives of employee and employer organisations (3) between December 2017 and January 2018.
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
Digital Age
Employment and working
conditions of selected types of
platform work
National context analysis
Italy
Employment and working conditions of
selected types of platform work
WORKING PAPER
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
Contents
Contents
Introduction ...................................................................................................................................... 1
Overview .......................................................................................................................................... 1
Regulatory frameworks .................................................................................................................... 6
Formal relationships ....................................................................................................................... 15
Organisation and representation in platform work ......................................................................... 19
References ...................................................................................................................................... 24
Annex: platforms mentioned in text ............................................................................................... 33
Authors: Valerio De Stefano (KU Leuven) and Antonio Aloisi (Bocconi University)
Research Managers: Irene Mandl, Sara Riso
Eurofound reference number: WPEF18056
Related report: Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to express their sincere gratitude to Willem Pieter De
Groen, Karolien Lenaerts, Zachary Kilhoffer, and Ana Silva of CEPS.
© European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), 2018
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No. 1365/75 to contribute to the planning and design of better living and working conditions in Europe.
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Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
1
Introduction
A recent development on European labour markets, platform work, has attracted significant
attention in academic and policy circles (Eurofound, 2015). Still, much of the available
evidence is anecdotal, and there is limited understanding of the implications of platform work
for the labour market and for the workers.
There is no uniform definition for platform work or related concepts in Italy. For this report,
platform work takes its definition from Eurofound (2018) as follows:
Platform work refers to an employment form that uses an online platform to
enable organisations or individuals (workers) to access other organisations or
individuals (clients) to solve specific problems or to provide specific services
in exchange for payment.
Thus, the research focus is on online platforms matching supply and demand for paid labour.
The main features of platform work, as understood in this report, are: Paid work organised
through online platforms; three parties involved, including the online platform, client and
worker; aim is to conduct specific tasks or solve specific problems; form of
outsourcing/contracting out; break-down of ‘jobs’ into ‘tasks’; on-demand services.
This working paper is the country contribution for Italy for Eurofound’s research project
‘Digital age: Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work’. It
explores the context of platform work in Italy in terms of the applicable regulatory
frameworks as well as the organisation and representation of platform workers in the country.
The analysis is based on desk research and 7 semi-structured interviews with experts from
academia (3), policymakers (1) and representatives of employee and employer organisations
(3) between December 2017 and January 2018.
Overview
The development of platform work in Italy coincided with broader changes and challenges
affecting the labour market at large (Däubler, 2017), namely automation and digitalisation,
tertiarisation of economy, flexibilisation and casualisation of work relationships,
intensification of labour, as well as shifts in lifestyle and generational preferences (Degryse,
2016). Interviewed experts agreed that digital transformation of work, combined with the
growing ubiquity of internet-enabled devices, contributed to the emergence and growth of
platform work. In addition to this, the rise of this non-standard workforce is attributed to the
increased demand for both numerical and functional flexibility on the part of employers
(Eurofound, 2015), and, in some cases, the need or the desire for greater flexibility on the part
of workers (De Stefano, 2016a). Experts agree that tasks are being increasingly performed
outside conventional firms, for example, on a project basis by self-employed persons (Dachs,
2018).
One interviewed policymaker stated that the rise in unemployment associated with the
ferocious impact of the economic crisis
1
, particularly among young people, may also have
been a factor that led to greater interest amongst Italians in working via platform or app, both
online and locally, due to the lack of alternatives in the traditional labour market. In turn, the
distressed economic condition also spurred the demand for cheaper services through
platforms. However, the main customers of this sort of services belong to the upper middle
class.
1
A large number of unemployed people is found in Italy (three million).
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
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2
Almost 10 years ago platform work began in services delivered online, especially translations,
editing and coding, but as of early 2018 physical work appears to be prevalent, according to
several interviewees. Services executed in a specific location include delivery, maintenance,
cleaning, and baby- and pet-sitting. Such services often require a large demand, therefore for
the moment platform work mainly takes place in large cities where population density is high
(Milan, Rome, Turin, Bologna, Naples). Accordingly, in the Northern part of Italy, platform
work is currently more strongly represented.
There exists no official or formal definition and classification for platform work in Italy, and
there is little terminological consistency across relevant literature. At a general level,
platforms are often called ‘digital platforms’, ‘gig-economy platforms’, ‘crowd working
platforms’, ‘labour platforms’. The activities are instead referred to as lavoretti (literally ‘odd
jobs’), cottimo digitale (‘digital piece-work’) or, simply, ‘on-demand labour’. However, it is
important to note that Italian authors frequently use the same words to refer to different ideas,
or different words for the same concepts
2
. Each definition derives from some of the perceived
characteristics (for instance, ‘collaborative platform’ spreads a message of sharing
3
, while
‘gig economy’ (economia dei lavoretti in Italian) implies a ‘sense of denial’ or ‘a surrender of
the language of labour’) (Tullini, 2016a). For the sake of simplicity, focusing on the
distribution channel (‘platform-mediated labour’), which is not a legal criterion for
distinction, appears convenient for academic reasons (Voza 2017b; Aloisi, 2018a). These
labels cover various kinds of economic activities that might have widely different normative
basis and social implications, while sharing a significant number of features.
In Italy, the current debate is mostly driven by academics, social partners and both traditional
and new media. However, media attention is mainly focused on delivery platform work, due
to the increasing number of protests, thus neglecting other forms of platform work.
The rise of the platform economy has given birth to new forms of industrial action because it
is at the risk of creating greater job and income insecurity for workers. More recently, the
Labour Tribunal of Turin has rejected the claim of six Foodora couriers to be reclassified as
employees. The court argued that the workers are free to decide when to work and to
disregard previously agreed shifts. However, the last word has not been said on this subject.
The debate over platform work in Italy, in short, concerns the need for a balance between
safeguarding social rights against a potential deterioration in the quality of jobs and
unleashing authentic societal improvements (Aloisi et al, 2017). Recently, the idea that
lawyers and scholars must seek to square this fast-evolving phenomenon with the existing
legal framework before exploring reforms has reached a large support.
There is considerable agreement among interviewed experts on the platform work’s
propensity to scale quickly across sector and borders. More importantly, potential risks and
opportunities embodied by the work-related platform economy far outweigh its relevance as a
current source of employment.
Variety of platforms
Looking more closely at the Italian situation, two main categories can be distinguished: online
platform work (service completed remotely and delivered online) and platform work
delivered locally (De Stefano, 2016a; 2016b; Dagnino, 2016). Moreover, these arrangements
2
Many commentators have tried to demonstrate how the ‘tent definition’ is being used to lump
together very different arrangements (Valenduc and Vendramin, 1999, Kenney and Zysman, 2016).
3
Although online platforms describe themselves as a part of this trend, the label ‘sharing economy’ is
now disgraced for misrepresenting the reality. Social partners have argued that the term is misleading
in so far that a ‘mutualistic’ element is hardly observable when talking about a commercial and
professional relationship between the involved parties.
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
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3
are distributed across several key sectors: professional online services, including services
completed solely on computer and delivered remotely over the internet and encompassing a
wide variety of activities, clerical or repetitive moderation of user-generated content on
websites is a widespread application; and locally delivered services ranging from passenger
transport services to on-demand services at the client’s premises (De Stefano and Aloisi, 2018
forthcoming).
A variety of online and locally-delivered work platforms active in Italy can be listed: micro-
tasking (for example, Clickworker); marketplace/freelancing (for example, MakeItApp);
design (for example, Zooppa, 99design and Co-hive); software testing (for example,
Appsquare); and innovation such as idea engineering for a corporate communication strategy
(for example, Oxway).
Moreover, there is a range of platforms offering personal services, including care (for
example, Le Cicogne or Oltretata or Animali alla pari, Holidog), cleaning (for example,
Helpling and EasyFeel), food delivery (for example, Foodora, Deliveroo, Glovo, UberEats),
manual craft (like Tabbid or Vicker). In each of these five categories, clients select a specific
worker, or the platform selects a worker for them (TraiLab and Collaboriamo, 2016).
Additionally, local micro-tasking platforms are on the rise: several small start-ups aiming to
scale or be bought by bigger businesses could be mentioned: PrestoFood offering food
delivery services in Sicily and Calabria and Expressoo offering postal services in Catania.
Many platform workers are often overqualified for the work they perform. In contrast, many
online contestants have academic degrees or specific skills which are required for complex
contests. As for local platform-determined work, the matching is mainly done by algorithmic
forms of management or the selection of workers to do a specific task is mainly performed by
the client; conversely, on local worker-initiated and online contestant platforms available
tasks are posted on the platform and workers can opt to participate.
While there are some platforms that merely connect demand and supply of tasks between
clients and workers, there are many other instances where platforms do more than this,
actively intervening in key elements of the work being provided (De Stefano, 2016a). The
model raises concern about the quality of work and employment of the affected workers and
the effects on the economy and society (Pesole et al, 2018).
Spread of platform work
The Italian work-related platform economy is rapidly growing. There are only a few data
sources on the usage of the platforms. Based on these the participation appears to be non-
marginal in statistical terms (Codagnone et al, 2016). The number of workers is estimated at
between 700,000 and 1,000,000 according to a new research carried out by Fondazione
Rodolfo DeBenedetti
4
(Boeri et al, 2018; Cottone, 2018).
The available data are largely based on estimates. The size varies depending on the
methodologies and definitions applied. Moreover, there are reliability issues. For instance, the
number of users on a platform may not be a reliable indicator, because not all users are active
and some users might have multiple accounts/identities to register on various accounts.
An online survey carried out by FEPS in cooperation with UNI Europa and the University of
Hertfordshire (Huws et al, 2017) found that a substantial share of the Italian population (22%)
has completed projects or micro tasks. However, only around half of them provide services
via platforms frequently (i.e. at least weekly). Moreover, in the majority of cases, this was a
very occasional supplement to other earnings. The survey indicates that services provided in
households (such as cleaning or maintenance tasks) are the most common ones. According to
4
The online survey with 15,000 respondents representing working age population (WAPOP) was
carried out between 8 May and 15 May 2018: 2.6 % of WAPOP are found to be ‘gig-workers’.
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
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4
the same data, 5.1% of the Italian population (equivalent to 2.2 million people) is earning
more than half their income from platform work. Interestingly enough, the reported
percentage of young platform worker is only 39%, but only 41% of platform workers end to
describe themselves as full-time employees. The same study found a more even gender split
among platform workers, with women performing 52% of the weekly platform work (Pesole
et al, 2018).
The accuracy of the results of this online survey is questioned. Several interviewees, in
particular academics and social partners, are sceptical about these results. Different surveys
present quite varied results and are difficult to compare, due to differences in the terminology
and the survey method (online, offline, or both) used. For example, online surveys to measure
the number of platform workers can lead to an overestimation of the number of workers
compared to their real prevalence in the labour market, since those who are more active
online are easier to sample.
Additionally, TraiLab and Collaboriamo have conducted several mapping exercises covering
‘sharing economy platforms’, following a definition somewhat overlapping with that of
platform work used in this report
5
. Their exercises show that there is a high turnover among
Italian platforms. Of the 118 platforms surveyed in 2015, 13 (11%) were inactive in the
following year (TraiLab and Collaboriamo, 2016). There were 125 platforms operating in
Italy in 2016, of which 17 were newly set up and 30 ceased their operations (TraiLab and
Collaboriamo, 2017). Half of these platforms have fewer than 100,000 users, while only 8%
have more than 100,000 users
6
(TraiLab and Collaboriamo, 2016). More than half of the
platforms are located in the north of the country.
The mapping research also traces the socio-professional profile of the founders: 82% are men,
60% have a degree in economics or engineering, many have previous business experience,
34% own companies in other sectors (TraiLab and Collaboriamo, 2016; Ciccarelli, 2016).
Debate on the labour market impact of platform work
Practices in the work-related platform economy have shifted from the original unpaid
communal activities to paid professional activities (Hatzopoulos and Roma, 2017). Today,
those who work in this economic segment make a career out of it and seek to earn their main
income from it.
Platform work surfaced in the public consciousness only in the last 5-10 years, together with
broader trends that are reshaping the labour market. This phenomenon is part of a
transformation of labour into casual work and fragmentation of labour relations that has been
going on for some time
7
. Discussions have focused on extending the current framework rather
than setting up a dedicated framework for platform workers.
To varying degrees, most sides of the public debate in Italy acknowledge the potential for
positive and negative effects of platform work. For example, platforms are under scrutiny for
allegedly contributing to the degradation of the employment relationship and working
conditions. Instead of liberating entrepreneurial energies, this phenomenon is considered to
5
The scope of the research is defined as follows: ‘(i) platforms directly connecting people with people,
matching supply and demand, and enabling peer collaboration, (ii) platforms enabling interactions
without providing products and services (they do not set the price of the transaction that is established
by peers, do not select the staff, they only set a reputational system), (iii) platforms allowing the
participation of both professionals and private citizens, (iv) forms of collaboration mediated by a
technological platform’.
6
The term ‘users’ is meant to designate both platform workers and clients cumulatively.
7
Non-standard work arrangements have increased in recent years, even in Italy where traditional self-
employment is declining (Boeri et al, 2018).
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
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5
result in a sharp increase of the low-skill and low-pay economy. As a result, advantages such
as job market activation, enhanced flexibility and frictionless career mobility are coupled with
harsh working conditions, income insecurity and lower work-related benefits.
Notably, platform workers share working conditions with a wider group of non-standard
workers in the ‘fissured workplace’ (Weil, 2014), a trend undermining social protections and
reducing wages (Aloisi, 2018a). Most of platform workers are excluded by some, or even the
entirety, of the essential workplace protections afforded to employees, such as sick or holiday
leave, full insurance, pension, superannuation or similar schemes, or minimum rates of pay
and working time regulations. In addition to this, costs associated with equipment,
maintenance and repairs are at the worker’s own expense: no reimbursements for these
expenses are often due (De Stefano and Aloisi, 2018 forthcoming). Moreover, when
employers disclaim responsibility for working conditions, this transfers a range of risks to
workers and, more broadly, to society as a whole.
Nonetheless, platform work is also seen as a response to the genuine need for flexibility.
Along the development of the platform economy, platform work is increasingly viewed as an
important potential creator of new jobs, primarily for underrepresented categories of workers.
According to scholars, platform work might offer opportunities to students, retirees and many
people belonging to concessionary or marginalised groups, including, in some cases, those
impaired or bound to stay at home. These newly emerging forms of work may have the
potential to help vulnerable communities, by breaking down the barriers of their local labour
markets. At the same time, several platforms offer a system of validation of non-formal skills
and ‘skills assessment’ in order to determine a clustering of providers according to their
internal ranking.
For the time being, the topic of platform work has only been the subject of debate or
reflection, mainly carried out by experts, scholars and social partners. Preliminary discourses
on these issues were carried out in 2015, as an echo of the international debate. A core debate
of platform work revolves around whether it is appropriate to consider platform workers as
self-employed, or if platform workers should be considered employees of the platform or
client. Establishing employment status is not merely a dogmatic issue, but it is pivotal to
determine the scope of workers’ protection.
No regulatory solutions have been implemented nor have worker or business representatives
taken any official or commonly agreed position
8
, as an interviewed policymaker emphasised.
Only sporadic initiatives have taken place as of early 2018. More recently, platform work has
received growing political attention, in addition to the intense academic debate related to the
broader implications of this new form of work and the decision on the employment status of
six riders by the Employment Tribunal of Turin. Several remarkable actions can be listed,
namely a new national collective agreement regulating the job position of the ‘rider’ in the
logistics sector, the draft of a new legislative decree proposed by the Labour and Industry
Minister (then withdrawn), and a number of local efforts carried out by municipalities,
workers’ representatives, spontaneous movements and mainly food delivery platforms.
Trade unions appear to support initiatives of platform workers rather than attempt to compete
with them. The more the phenomenon moves forward, the more likely it is that traditional
trade unions will take an interest. Employer organisations have been much less vocal on the
topic than trade unions, and they focus on different issues. In general, employer organisations
are focused on Industry 4.0 (Impresa 4.0)
9
and mostly concerned about (unfair) competition,
8
In 2016, the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy launched a ‘Future of Work’ initiative
involving social partners, which aims at placing platform work in a wider political context. This
initiative should be seen as a forum for ideas rather than a consultation body.
9
See Italian Ministry of Economic Development (2017), National Plan ‘Firm 4.0’, available at
http://bit.ly/FIRM4_0.
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
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6
but they also see new opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurship. In the meantime,
new organisations have been launched in an attempt to ‘proto-unionise’ platform workers.
Regulatory frameworks
Despite being characterised by a high level of heterogeneity, this model calls into question the
suitability and effectiveness of existing regulatory frameworks. It is often wrongly assumed
that existing employment regulations do not apply to platform work (Aloisi, 2016a) as it can
be difficult to fit platform workers into the traditional categories for employment status, given
the flexibility and the supposed novelty of this model and the autonomy that they seemingly
enjoy
Italy has a civil law system. The regulatory frameworks are based on written law including
the constitution, codes, and legal statutes. The civil code lays down some fundamental
principle regulating matters including individual labour contracts
10
. Italian labour and
employment laws cover the relationship between collective parties the employer
organisations, works councils, and trade unions and the relationship between employers and
individual employees (and other categories of workers). There is no unified employment and
labour law code. For this reason, case law enacted through Italian courts is more important for
labour and employment than in other areas. Court rulings are normally based on evidence,
irrespective of how the parties construe or describe a given contractual relationship.
Moreover, labour law is regarded as having in general an imperative nature for the main
reason that is aimed at protecting the worker as the weaker part of the labour relationship
(Treu, 2014). The concept of inderogability or mandatory effects applies, through which the
principles of the welfare state and social justice ‘seep into’ different templates of both
individual and collective employment relationships. Indeed, private agreements may not
deviate from the legal requirements and individual workers are not allowed to waive or
dispose rights deriving from imperative norms
11
.
The principle of primacy of facts is also established as a general principle of contract law,
according to which ‘the determination of the existence of an employment relationship should
be guided by the facts relating to the actual performance of work and not on the basis of how
the parties describe the relationship’ (Berg et al, 2018).
Italian employment and labour law are also influenced by EU law, as legislature and
jurisdiction must comply with the regulations and directives of the EU and their interpretation
by the European Court of Justice (Treu, 2014). Moreover, Italy has ratified most of the ILO
conventions in social matters.
Employment law
No specific regulatory framework exists for platform work in Italy. Accordingly, national
governments, workers and platforms must rely on more general legislation, based on
employment status and the type of work performed.
Employment law in Italy is in principle covering work performed in subordination, so that
only employees enjoy full protection (Treu, 2014). In the Italian system, a fundamental binary
divide applies (Liebman, 1999). Italian law contains the employment statuses of lavoratore
subordinato (employee) and lavoratore autonomo (self-employed worker). Nonetheless, in
1973 the legislation was partly responsible for a relaxation of the rigid dichotomy through the
creation of an intermediate category.
10
Articles 2094 2134 of the Italian Civil Code.
11
Article 2113 of the Italian Civil Code.
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National context analysis: Italy
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7
Article 2094 of the civil code defines employees as persons performing intellectual or manual
work against payment under management. One of main elements of the standard employment
relationship is the subjection of the worker to the organisational, hierarchical and disciplinary
powers of the employer
12
, with personal subordination of the employees
13
. More specifically,
managerial power is a hallmark of employee status and allows for internal flexibility; the
possibility of rearranging, even on a daily basis, an employee’s duties within the business
(Del Conte and Tiraboschi, 2004, Perulli, 2017b). According to article 2104 of the civil code,
an employer’s directive power is the counterpart of the duty of obedience of an employee.
Besides this, case law developed a wide spectrum of subordination factors that could indicate
the presence of an employment relationship. A court ruling could disregard or override the
contractual label that the parties choose when the substance of the work relationship
contained legal indications of subordination and if the level of dependence is such that in
reality the relationship is one of employment. The analysis covers a range of factors:
1. the requirement that the worker follows reasonable work rules or even non-specific
guidance;
2. the length of relationship and the continuous nature of the work
14
;
3. the respect of set working hours;
4. the form of remuneration (salaried work); and,
5. absence of risk of loss related to the production
6. the integration with the employer’s business.
The test is multifactorial, and no single factor is dispositive. The label placed on to the
relationship is a factor in the outcome, but it is certainly not the most important one. More
recently, courts have given greater importance to the intentions of the parties. Subsequent
elaboration made clear that workers could have a considerable amount of autonomy granted
by general and functional directives yet still be classified as employees.
Legislative Decree no. 81/2015 implementing the Jobs Act introduced new possibilities with
reference to the regulation of the employers’ prerogative to unilaterally change the duties for
which the employee has been hired (Gramano, 2018), thus fostering ‘functional flexibility’
(Treu, 1992). Moreover, Law No. 81 of 2017 introduced ‘smart working’, work that can be
carried out via technologies outside the employers’ premises and allow more flexible working
time arrangements (Gramano and Del Conte, 2018 forthcoming). This template could be used
to regulate different online platform work arrangements in the framework of an employment
relationship.
Turning to independent contractors, article 2222 of the civil code sets forth the definition of
self-employment as persons performing a piece of work for compensation, primarily by their
own effort and without a relation of subordination to a manager. Roughly speaking, general
principles of civil and commercial law apply to the self-employed, which are considered
substantially and formally equal to the counterpart from a contractual point of view.
12
Cass. 13 May 2004, No. 9151; Cass., 29 November 2007, No. 24903, Cass., 11 May 2005, No. 9894
(on the notion of hetero-organisation). For a complete overview, see Nogler, 2009.
13
See, for instance, Cass., 29 November 2007, No. 24903 (the principal element of an employment
contract and the criterion that distinguishes it from a self-employment contract is subordination,
understood as a link of personal subjection to the power of direction). It is important to note that the
Italian Civil Code does not provide a definition of the employment relationship, but of the subordinate
employee. See Cass., 18 July 2008, No. 20532. In the Italian law, subordination is a technical and
functional notion: the employee undertakes the obligation to work under the authority of the employer
who has the right to direct and control the work, as well as to inflict disciplinary sanctions.
14
See Cass. 28 July 1995, No. 8260.
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National context analysis: Italy
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Law No. 81 of 2017, a new regulation on authentic self-employed workers, for the very first
time grants some specific social protection also to purely independent contractors (Gramano
and Del Conte, 2018 forthcoming).
Although the standard employment relationship is considered the most common form of
employment, more recently, the lawmaker designed alternative arrangements (such as fixed-
term contracts, temporary agency work, job sharing and job on call) which are cheaper for the
employer. Despite providing less protection for the employee than the standard employment
contract (Gramano and Del Conte, 2018 forthcoming), these contracts could be used to
regulate platform work.
An intermediate status between employee and self-employed called ‘quasi-subordinate
worker’ was introduced in 1973. It is worth noting that many platform workers are currently
classified under this (sub)category. This is for example the case for Foodora riders.
Act No. 533 of 1973 declared the legislation concerning the settlement of labour disputes
applicable to commercial agents and to all contractual relations implying a continuous
performance of work, mainly of a personal character, although not in a position of
subordination (collaborazione coordinata e continuativa, the so-called Co.Co.Co., or
lavoratori parasubordinati). As a result, Act No. 533 extended some protection to a tranche
of self-employed workers, thus contributing to the creation of what later would become the
intermediate category of worker (‘quasi-subordinate worker, lavoratore parasubordinato)
situated between employee and independent contractor. Comprised of a subset of self-
employed workers, these quasi-subordinate workers were recognised as continuous and
coordinated collaborators. Hiring these employees is substantially cheaper than hiring an
employee who is entitled to substantive labour rights, annual leave, sick leave, maternity
leave, overtime, and job security against unfair dismissal (Cherry and Aloisi, 2017).
In response, businesses increasingly began to hire workers under the lavoratore
parasubordinato (sub)category. Most of these quasi-subordinate would previously have been
classified as employees, according to academic experts. Experience has shown that adding a
new category could increase the possibility for arbitrage relocating the borders of the ‘grey
area’ between a newly deregulated employment and self-employment rather than provide
more protections for the latter.
More recently, article 2 of Legislative Decree No. 81/2015 (the ‘Jobs Act’) introduced
‘collaborations organised by the principal’ (literally collaborazioni organizzate dal
committente), whereby the client organises several performance-related aspects, including
above all time and location. Should this be the case, all statutory employment provisions
afforded to employees apply to this group of formally self-employed workers.
The result is, in practice, a considerable broadening of the scope of protections traditionally
granted to standard employees (Bronzini, 2016; Nogler, 2015; Razzolini, 2015). The Jobs Act
has effectively extended employment protection to workers whose performance is organised
by the client. However, collective agreements may lead to opt-out from labour law regulation.
These new provisions, applicable only when the performance displays a purely personal
nature, could make it easier to prove the organisational power exercised by a client (the
platform, for instance), thus resulting in the possible application of employment protections to
platform workers, too (INPS, 2018; Aloisi, 2016b). Criticism has been raised in relation to the
suitability of these new provisions to platform workers, specifically riders (Lunardon, 2018).
While the quasi-subordinate category still exists, it is now limited in its scope as a reaction to
abuses. Essentially, the ultimate result is a return to the binary distinction of employee and
self-employed workers.
Anti-discrimination and privacy and data protection legislations do not apply to platform
workers generally.
In particular, the system of anti-discrimination rules covers involvement in a trade union and
participation in a strike (Law No. 300/1970), racial and ethnic origin (Legislative Decree No.
215/2003 implementing Council Directive 2000/43/EC), religion, belief, disability, age and
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9
sexual orientation (Legislative Decree No. 216/2003 implementing Council Directive
2000/78/EC) and gender, pregnancy and marital status (Legislative Decree No. 198/2006, as
amended by Legislative Decree No. 5/2010 implementing Council Directive 2006/54/EC).
In September 2015, the Jobs Act amended Article 4 of the Italian Workers’ Statute. Pursuant
to the new legislation, any other device through which the employer can monitor the
employee’s activity must be implemented only for productive and organisational reasons and
for protection of the firm’s properties with the approval of workers’ representatives.
Moreover, the new Article 4 of the Italian Workers’ Statute allows the employers to process
and use all data obtained from devices given to employees for fulfilling the working tasks.
The provision allows the employer to use also for disciplinary purpose personal data collected
by technological devices in accordance with the Italian Data Protection Code (Legislative
Decree No. 196/2003) (Ingrao, 2018). The only employers’ obligation is to inform the
employees in advance about the use of the equipment they are going to implement
15
.
The Data Protection Code provides that the personal data including data related to
employees should be processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner. Data can be
collected for specific, explicit and legitimate purposes and must be adequate, accurate,
relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the final purposes. The EU-GDPR
(European Union General Data Protection Regulation) was released in May 2018, and is
expected to help clarify and harmonise data laws across Member States and economic sectors.
Social protection
National social security systems are funded by contributions paid by workers and employers
and, to various degrees, through taxation. In Italy, the essential prerequisite underpinning a
worker’s insured status as regards pensions, health and unemployment is the status of
employee.
As platform workers are generally considered to be self-employed, these workers are often
subject to the social insurance systems of self-employed, which often tend to be less
favourable and/or more expensive for the worker than those for employees. Italian self-
employed workers are not covered by contributory social protection against unemployment
risk, and sometimes maternity and sickness (Boeri et al, 2018).
The Italian legislation provides for the coverage of the following social security categories:
old age, invalidity, survivor, sickness, unemployment, family, maternity and equivalent
paternity benefits, as well as benefits for work injuries and occupational diseases. All
employees performing their earning activity in the Italian territory are compulsorily covered
by social security insurance (European Commission, 2013, Borzaga, 2016).
Contributions of the employees are a share of the total pay, depending on the sector,
professional qualification of the employee, number of employees, location of the business,
etc. The employer is responsible for transferring both the employer and employee
contributions to the competent social security institution.
Contributions of self-employed workers are based on the total income declared. There are
special provisions for family members actively involved in the earning activities of the self-
employed (against a reduced rate when they are under 21), farmers, sharecroppers and
smallholders (paying a pro rata contributions of the average taxable income) (Eichhorst et al,
2013; European Commission, 2013; Spasova et al, 2017). Self-employed women are also
entitled to maternity allowance for the two months preceding and three months after the birth,
15
Therefore the companies should draft new internal policies, duly published and delivered to the
employees, in which they clearly and fully explain how the equipment will be used and which
information the employer will obtain from it and the aim of such control’ (Bargellini, 2016).
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irrespective of their actual abstention from work (contrary to employed women who are
obliged to suspend their activity during this period)
16
.
Moreover, the self-employed must register and make contributions either to a separate social
security regime (called cassa), which is a social security fund allied to their profession, or
directly with the Italian Social Security administration (Istituto nazionale della previdenza
sociale, INPS). The rate for workers with a VAT number exclusively enrolled into the
separate social security regime is at around 25%.
Little attention has been paid to whether platform workers engaged in online platform work
activities qualify for obligatory social insurance as of early 2018.
Generally, the requirements for obligatory social insurance are not met by platform workers
because they do not enter into a contract with the platform. When platform workers are hired
under a collaborazione coordinata e continuativa scheme, they must enrol into a separate
social security regime (gestione separata INPS)
17
. In such case, the contribution rate is
32.72% of the income (one third is paid by the worker (collaborator), two thirds by the
client). Autonomous and occasional collaborators (collaboratori occasionali) must enrol in
gestione separata INPS only if the total yearly remuneration exceeds 5,000. In 2015, a
specific new scheme was introduced for collaborators who lose their job after having paid
contributions for at least one month during the previous year or with a contract with a
duration of at least a month.
As the fragmented available data suggest that the large majority of platform workers uses this
employment form for side earnings, it can be assumed that those workers who are engaged in
this employment form on a part-time basis or occasionally fall below this threshold.
Health and safety
Issues pertaining to health and safety have not been discussed much in the context of platform
work. In Italy, no specific provisions for platform workers are in place. Some platforms, such
as Deliveroo, have started to offer insurance to the workers, but their number is limited
18
.
Italian companies must adopt a set of precautionary measures, in the interests of preventing
accidents at work and occupational illnesses.
According to article 2087 of the civil code the employer is required to prevent the risks at the
workplace in the light of existing technical knowledge and, where this is not possible, to
reduce them to a minimum. Failure to observe the obligations imposed on the employer and
on those designated in the various sectors is punished.
16
Moreover, pregnant self-employed women have the possibility after approval of the principal to be
replaced or supported by other workers who meet the necessary professional qualification.
Additionally, pregnancy, illness and injury of self-employed workers who work continuously for the
same principal does not lead to the termination of the contract, whereas the performance is suspended
at the request of self-employed, without entitlement to compensation for a period up to 150 days per
year. However, the client of the self-employed is entitled to withdraw from the contract when no longer
interested in continuation. Finally, self-employed workers are entitled to parental leave of up to six
months for both parents during first three years after the birth of the child. The indemnity is equal to
30% of the income from work for which at least three months of contribution has been paid (Gramano
and Del Conte, 2018 forthcoming).
17
Gestione separata is a pension scheme funded by a compulsory tax providing quasi-subordinate
workers with a suitable insurance.
18
Deliveroo has stipulated a private insurance for food delivery workers. The company will provide its
riders free accident insurance to cover up to €7,500 of medical expenses and as much as 75% of
average gross income (Simonetta, 2018; Gangcuangco, 2018).
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In addition to article 2087 of the civil code, health and safety at work are regulated by
Legislative Decree Law 81/2008 from an operational point of view. This decree transposes
the European Directive on the protection of safety and health of workers.
The customer must verify the aptness and the necessary professional competences of the self-
employed workers to effectuate the works. A list of documents that can be asked, including
registration with the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Handicrafts with scope that relates
to the contract type, specific documentation showing compliance with the provisions of this
decree in the field of machinery, equipment and temporary works, list of personal protective
equipment, statements regarding their for training and health suitability as expressly foreseen
by this decree; documents on regular contributions.
Although accidents at work and occupational injuries are linked to the employment status, as
employers are usually responsible for insuring their workers against these risks, in Italy the
self-employed, mainly quasi-subordinate workers, have access to these type of benefits
(Spasova et al, 2017).
The insurance scheme providing protection to workers in case of occupational diseases,
injuries or death at work are financed through contributions of the employers and managed by
the National Institute for the Insurance against Accidents at Work (Istituto Nazionale
Assicurazione Infortuni sul Lavoro, INAIL). It offers both temporary benefits, life-long
annuities in the event of permanent disability and death grants (European Commission, 2013).
As below, most of the platform workers are classified as quasi-subordinate workers or
occasional collaborators. Quasi- subordinate workers (collaboratori coordinati e continuativi)
are covered by an insurance paid by the worker (1/3 of the amount) and by the employer (2/3
of the amount)
19
. Occasional collaborators (collaboratori occasionali) do not join any
statutory insurance scheme. Either they are insured at their own expense (and nobody does),
or in the event of an accident they are not entitled to any compensation (Gabanelli and
Querzè, 2018).
Taxation rules
All earnings from platform work activities are officially subject to taxation.
The platform economy more broadly is considered both a threat and opportunity for tax
authorities. On the one hand, it offers the opportunity to formalise the informal economy and
reduce undeclared work. Due to its digital nature, information can be easily stored and shared
with the responsible authorities. On the other hand, enforcement of the taxation rules appears
to be difficult and many platform workers are unaware of the applicable rules.
This is related to the uncertainty on platform workers’ employment status, and it has
implications for who is responsible for what (also in administrative terms). If the platform
workers are employees, the platform is responsible for transferring the income tax to the
authorities. If these workers are self-employed, the responsibility falls on them (income tax
and value added tax (VAT), and corporate income tax if they are incorporated).
Employees are subject to income tax on natural persons (Imposta sul Reddito delle Persone
Fisiche, IRPEF). The same applies to quasi-subordinate workers (collaboratori coordinati e
continuativi).
The available anecdotal evidence, however, pinpoints towards only a low share of platform
workers being employees. No information is available as regards self-employed platform
workers fulfilling their tax obligations.
Self-employed workers must apply for a VAT number (partita Iva in Italian), issue invoices,
submit an annual tax return, and make regular VAT payments and income tax advance
19
A food delivery worker earning 600 per month must pay 75 per year, while the platform pays 150
(Gabanelli and Querzè, 2018).
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payments. The contributions a worker must pay are calculated based on the total company
income a worker declares for the purposes of income tax on natural persons for the year to
which the contributions correspond.
Litigation on platform work
In Italy, there have been or are still ongoing cases on the legality of the services provided and
the classification of platform workers. Rulings are made on a case-by-case basis, considering
the specific circumstances. This implies that courts can arrive at different conclusions for
workers active on the same platform, and in the same sector or country.
As for activities in the transport field, the Court of Milan banned the UberPop app across Italy
for unfair competition practices in May 2015. According to the court, the service was a direct
competitor of traditional taxi companies or cooperatives. Although Uber claims to be a mere
digital service, it has the same features as private transport companies. Moreover, the service
should not be treated as car-sharing or car-pooling since car owners do not share the costs of
the drive to reach their personal destination (Auriemma, 2017a). The matching service was,
therefore, deemed comparable with that provided by a traditional call centre while its pricing
system was not subject to the rules governing the public taxi service. The price advantages of
UberPop arise because of a lack of obligations for transport licences (such as the cost of
installing meters, insurance and maintenance checks) and other legal requirements.
A second decision by the Court of Milan stated that the UberBlack service (licenced drivers)
may also constitute unfair competition against private hire vehicle drivers who have to return
to a garage in between rides. Similar observations were made in Tribunale di Torino, Sez.
spec. impresa, sentenza 24/3/2017, n. 1553 and Tribunale di Roma, S. spec. impresa,
ordinanza 7/4/2017 (then reversed) (Donini, 2016; Di Amato 2016).
Grassroots organisations started promoting lawsuits claiming the misclassification of platform
workers (Cravero, 2017).
The Employment Tribunal of Turin (Tribunale del Lavoro) came to a decision in April 2018.
According to trade unionists, this is a highly political and social issue and should be
addressed by social partners instead of courts. As for inspection and proper enforcement, the
labour inspectorate has been called to intervene and investigate Foodora, after a public
protest, but there have not been further publications on the developments as of early 2018.
Last April, the Employment Tribunal of Turin rejected a claim from six riders of the food
delivery platform Foodora who asked to be reclassified as employees and argued that they
had been disconnected from the platform as a form of retaliation of the company against their
decision to go on strike.
In this case employee status was denied because the judge relied extensively on the fact that
these workers were allegedly free to decide when to work and to disregard previously agreed
shifts (De Stefano, 2018)
20
. Moreover, they were not subjected to neither the employer’s
directive power, nor to the organisational one. The judge refused to take into consideration
the issue regarding the appropriateness of the remuneration or others related to the platform
economy (Tullini, 2018b).
20
Relevant case law dates back to the 1980s when the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione)
stated that couriers were self-employed workers rather than employees on the grounds that they had the
right to refuse service and decide if and when to work. Multiple reactions in the press and the
claimants’ decision to appeal the ruling confirm that there will be more discussion and case law on this
issue (Sideri, 2018).
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Discussion on new or updated regulatory frameworks
At the national level, different parliamentary initiatives may be listed. First, a parliamentary
question on working conditions of platform workers hired by the food delivery platform
Foodora was presented in 2016
21
. Furthermore, there have been three bills that have not been
yet passed into law, respectively the Italian ‘Sharing Economy (Tax) Act’
22
introducing a
lower or no tax charge on annual income up to €10,000, the draft laws Provisions on work
organised or coordinated by the client Act’
23
and ‘Provisions on self-employment mediated by
digital platforms’ regulating umbrella organisations such as cooperatives for self-employed
persons
24
(Dagnino, 2018b). The national elections in March 2018 have halted parliamentary
activity and none of the Members of Parliament who were working on this topic have been re-
elected.
More recently, new Labour and Industry Minister Luigi Di Maio held informal meetings with
representatives of precarious platform workers and platforms managers
25
. He met a group of
food delivery riders in his first official engagement since being sworn in, and representatives
of platforms and workers in subsequent meetings. Di Maio, who is also the deputy prime
minister in the new government, said it was necessary to give these workers ‘insurance and a
decent minimum hourly wage’ and to support ‘dialogue between the big international
companies and the young workers (Ansa, 2018b). This initiative ‘provided an unquestionable
piece of recognition for the movement, which may allow its progress to be coordinated at the
national level’ (Zamponi, 2018).
The new government proposed a new legislative decree aimed at ensuring more contractual
protection and a guaranteed minimum wage for platform workers in the food delivery sector
(Dagnino, 2018a). According to a preliminary draft, workers ‘working via platforms or apps’
must be considered employees entitled to the right to paid holidays, sick leave and a wage
equal to or above a minimum level set by the relevant national collective bargaining
agreements. Moreover, platform workers shall be paid hourly (and not on a piece rate or ‘per-
drop’ basis) and entitled to the ‘right to disconnect’. Interestingly enough, algorithmic
management as well as the internal algorithm could be implemented after a ‘trial phase’, and
a subsequent negotiation with the trade unions which, in turn, shall be kept informed of the
internal rating’s dynamics and metrics (Feltri, 2018)
26
. There are different views whether new
legislation may improve the situation of platform workers (Baratta, 2018; Merler, 2018).
However, the draft was used as an instrument to pressurise social partners in order to foster
consultation between management and labour (Meta, 2018).
Tito Boeri, President of the Italian Social Security administration (Istituto nazionale della
previdenza sociale, INPS), proposed the introduction of an hourly wage for platform workers,
in addition to imposing that there is a registration of these transactions, to make sure that the
employers pay contributions (Conte, 2018).
21
See ‘Initiatives aimed at verifying working conditions at the Foodora company, as well as regulating
employment relationships with start-ups operating in the so-called sharing economy No. 3-02559’,
available at https://goo.gl/eNP3T4 (in Italian).
22
See https://goo.gl/HhXPiY (in Italian).
23
See https://goo.gl/qhnajn (in Italian).
24
The proposal contains a definition of platform-mediated labour, defines and regulates the ‘contract of
assistance and mutual protection’ to be used by umbrella companies. Umbrella companies provide
continuity of income and essential social security coverage. See https://goo.gl/is61ES (in Italian).
25
See: https://goo.gl/pd8ViL (in Italian).
26
At the time of writing, the new text of the Legislative Decree on Decent Work (Decreto Dignità)
does not contain any provision on platform work.
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While an increasing number of countries are looking at creating an employment status
somewhere between the traditional divide between employees and the self-employed, it seems
unlikely that a third or new status for platform workers will be introduced. In Italy, some
employees have actually seen their rights narrowed because their status was levelled down
into the already existing intermediate category (Cherry and Aloisi, 2017). Accordingly,
policymakers and unionists argue that it is important to be very careful about creating a
‘tailor-made’ intermediate category, whereas businesses argue in favour of allowing to take
advantage of the less burdensome employer requirements. Moreover, several voices have
been raised advocating a coordinated intervention at the European level aimed at preventing
social dumping and regulatory arbitrage (Baratta, 2018, Aloisi, 2018b).
Very little systematic effort has been made to establish how existing regulations should apply.
However, before proposing any changes to the current rules, solutions should be sought by
interpreting the notion of employment in a resilient or elastic way. Moreover, the existing
regulatory framework should be exploited to its maximum possibilities as appropriate.
Understandably, another crucial answer should be closing legal loopholes that incentivise
exploitative comportments by a marginal group of deceitful platforms. In addition to this,
more effort needs to be made to ensure that regulations are effectively applied, in order to
avoid the risk that platform workers’ are considered by default as falling in a normative
vacuum with no access to labour rights’ (De Stefano, 2017; Evans and Gibb, 2009).
Wrap-up
Platform work may display some characteristics of both self-employed workers and
employees. The employment status of platform workers is not specifically regulated in Italy.
As a result, the terms and conditions of platforms often opt for a self-employment status.
Under Italian employment law, employees are especially protected due to their dependence on
employers, receiving the most comprehensive protections in all the relevant domains. What
seems to be most significant is that the complete range of protective norms can be enjoyed
only entering the realm of employment. Very few platforms provide such contract.
However, both self-employed and the intermediate category of ‘quasi-subordinate worker’,
lavoratore parasubordinato (which seem to be the most common contractual formula),
receive a portion of these legal protections. Each of these categories represents heterogeneous
groups that are marked by extensive case law.
The discussion on setting employment law’s coverage is by no means new to scholars: in
many cases, the delimitation of the ‘border areas’ of the employment and self-employment
status has regularly posed practical, sometimes insurmountable, difficulties. Two court cases
(in Turin and in Milan, but the latter has not been published yet) investigated whether
platform workers are employees instead of self-employed, both finding a self-employment
status (Covelli, 2018).
Employment status has important implications for workers’ social protection, with self-
employed being less covered or having to afford higher contributions themselves while for
employees this is shared with the employer. This is a particular concern for those doing
platform work as their main earning, which tends to be the case in local platform-determined
work.
In addition to this, it must be understood that the employment status implies several
efficiencies and cost advantages compared to self-employment status. Firstly, typical
arrangements allow the fully-fledged deployment of managerial prerogatives and the related
flexibility in the use of the labour force to implement organisational strategies. Secondly, they
constitute an effective tool to deliver training and develop advanced or specific skills (Aloisi,
2018a).
Generally speaking, except for the national health system mainly funded through general
taxation and thus not linked to employment status in Italy the self-employed are not
compulsorily covered by sickness insurance, unemployment protection and cannot opt into
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one or more insurance-based schemes, while employees are mandatorily covered by the
schemes concerned. Moreover, quasi-subordinate workers may be compulsorily covered by
unemployment protection (Spasova et al, 2017).
While collaborators (the so-called Co.Co.Co.), together with professionals in sectors not
covered by independent pensions funds, are subject to compulsory insurance under a separate
social security scheme (gestione separata INPS), autonomous and occasional collaborators
are completely excluded from sickness insurance.
Formal relationships
The heterogeneity among platforms makes it unfeasible to cover all existing or potential
formal relationships between clients, platform workers, and platforms. This section will
therefore discuss the relationships of the platforms identified based on the existing literature
and expert interviews.
The formal relationships between platform worker and platform, and platform worker and
client, are extensively discussed. Contrarily, relationships between the client and platform
appear to be much less covered. Client and platform relationships are usually mentioned
anecdotally within discussions on platforms’ general terms and conditions, or consumer
protection in the broad context of digitalisation. It does not appear that the Italian government
has paid special attention to clients in platform work.
The formal relationships between platform worker and client
27
, and platform worker and
platform, are inextricably linked to employment status.
Potential employment statuses under Italian law
Taking into account the existing legal options, platform work arrangements may be classified
as employment contracts, self-employment contracts, and occasional or continuous and
coordinated collaborations (Menegatti, 2018).
In theory, any of these employment statuses could apply to platform workers. In practice,
however, the terms and conditions of the platform designate the employment status. It appears
that, in most cases, this results in a situation in which platform workers are considered to be
self-employed. Especially among workers who obtain their main income from platform work,
self-employed is the most common status.
Other schemes are quasi-subordinate worker (collaborazioni coordinate e continuative) and
autonomous and occasional work performances (prestazioni occasionali). Autonomous and
occasional work performances (prestazioni occasionali) can only be used for assignments of
fewer than 30 days and a total yearly remuneration of less than €5,000. According to a recent
investigation, around 80% of Italian food delivery riders are engaged under such contractual
template (Gabanelli and Querzè, 2018).
Platform workers may be classified as employees, but this happens very rarely (as with
YouGenio). Platform workers are classified as self-employed, with very limited access to
labour protection. However, platform workers are set apart from the ‘old guard’ of self-
employed workers and freelancers, who did not possess the propensity to self-regulate and to
exert industrial pressure against their clients.
Some platform workers (mainly in food delivery) are claiming that their work relationship has
been misclassified. Concerns about proper classification are not new. Italian judges have been
struggling with the task of correctly classifying workers. Part of the difficulty stems from how
the definition of employment is crafted and interpreted. In the 1980s these principles were
27
In the isolated case of the food delivery platform Foodracers, an autonomous occasional
collaboration is set between the platform worker and the final user, while UberEats promotes an
autonomous occasional collaboration between platform workers and restaurants (Cavallini, 2017).
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highlighted in a leading case on the classification of a courier (‘pony express’ messenger).
Despite the label the courier service used to describe its workers in their contracts, the labour
court ruled that the worker was actually an employee on the basis of socioeconomic
dependence. The court reasoned that the delivery rider was part of the economic and business
organisation of the principal. An appellate court, however, subsequently deemed the worker
to be an independent contractor. The highest judicial authority agreed that the worker was an
independent contractor on the grounds that the pony express messenger had the right to refuse
the service and decide if and when to work. This was essentially the reasoning behind a recent
decision made by an Italian court in a comparable case involving six Foodora bikers in April
2018: ‘if the employer cannot require performance of the service from the worker, neither can
he exercise any control or organisational power over that performance’. In the absence of
specific case law for food delivery through platforms, the court rejected the Foodora riders’
claim to be reclassified as employees. The court decision was taken on the basis that the
workers could refuse to work and there was no obligation for the company to provide work.
Italian tribunals must individually assess cases to determine whether a person is an employee
in case of disputes at the request of the worker.
Other contractual relationships
According to the INPS new annual report (INPS, 2018), there are certain regimes covering
specific activities and situations in Italy that are or could be applied to platform work
28
.
Indeed, besides delivery platforms, ‘little is known of the various segments of the gig
economy, which are likely to be associated with forms of informal or oral contracts, which
could use alternative forms of payment such as gift card or telephone top-up cards, or in any
case may not be subject to any form of protection, social contribution, or taxation (INPS,
2018).
According to interviewed experts, platforms try to hybridise traditional temporary work
agencies with new business models. Other labour lawyers argue that work activities
performed for platforms delivering goods or providing services to individuals and households
fall under temporary agency work (Faioli, 2018). However, it is worth noting that this legal
template postulates the existence of two different contracts: a commercial one binding the
agency and the final user and an employment contract between the agency and the worker
29
.
According to scholars, trade union and business representatives, platform work in the on-
demand household services sector might be considered as ‘casual work’ and regulated
accordingly (Prassl and Risak, 2017).
Recently, a set of rules encompassing the so-called ‘family booklet for occasional jobs’
30
and
the casual work contract was introduced for the purpose of hiring workers on a marginal basis
and up to a certain maximum income threshold. The family booklet covers casual work
activities related to household chores, elderly people or child care, and private teaching and
‘could serve as a particularly appropriate instrument to combine the social protection needs
28
In the context of its institutional activity of monitoring workers’ protections, INPS initiated a series
of meetings with the Deliveroo and Foodora management as of early 2018.
29
Although this working hypothesis does not reflect current market conditions, it should be taken into
consideration despite its difficult and controversial feasibility.
The Italian Ministry of Labour with Opinion (Interpello) n. 12/2013 has excluded the obligation of
prior authorisation pursuant to article 4, Legislative Decree no. 276/2003 (temporary agency work) for
the brokerage of activities carried out in a ‘crowdsourcing fashion’ if the aim pursued results in the
mere stipulation of contracts of a commercial nature, rather than the conclusion of employment
contracts.
30
Act 24 April 2017, No. 50, transformed into Act 21 June 2017, No. 96.
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with those of red tape simplification(INPS, 2018). Casual work contracts can be used by
employers (professionals, self-employed workers, entrepreneurs, associations, and public
organisations) who are staffed with over five permanent employees, do not operate in the
construction sector, and are not involved in the execution of public procurement contracts.
The wage is 9 per hour and at least 36 for a full working day. These sums include social
security contributions (Faioli, 2018).
The same new annual report (INPS, 2018) argues that intermittent work (contratto di lavoro
intermittente) could be the most appropriate contractual tool to regulate platform work. It
presents the desirable elements of flexibility for both employers and workers, although it is of
a subordinate nature. According to articles 13-18 of Decree 81/2015 two types of intermittent
work exist. Under the first type, the worker is on the one hand not required to accept calls for
work, while the employer on the other hand is not required to offer a minimum amount of
work. In the second type, the worker accepts the calls, while the employer does not need to
guarantee a minimum amount of hours but has to pay a monthly availability indemnity when
the worker is not called. A minimum notice of one working day is required (De Stefano,
2016). In the tourism sector, these workers are already included in the national collective
agreement.
Another existing legal scheme that can be used to regulate platform work is accessory work
(lavoro accessorio) introduced by article 70 of Decree 276/2003. It is defined as occasional
activities such as small domestic work, cleaning, maintenance, landscaping, and participation
in sportive or charitable events performed by people at risk of social exclusion, not
participating in the labour market or about to be excluded (Treu, 2014). These jobs cannot be
paid more than €7,000 per annum. Only people unemployed for more than one year, students,
housewives, retired people, and disabled persons can perform accessory work.
Relationships among the three involved parties
In many cases, the general terms and conditions of the platform (GTAC) determine the
relationships between all parties. Italian platforms usually specify that a platform worker
accepts a self-employment status by agreeing to the terms and conditions. This view was also
voiced by employee organisation representatives in the interviews. The implication is that a
platform worker and platform do not necessarily have a strong legal relationship. The
platform worker might simply use the platform as an intermediation tool to reach clients, and
any use of the platform is subject to the rules set by the participation agreement.
In order to conduct activities via a platform workers and clients only have one option: either
they adhere to the terms and conditions or not use the platform at all. The worker cannot
negotiate terms and conditions, as electronic standard forms a kind of adhesion-styled
agreement
31
allow only to agree. These often long and complex forms contain a variety of
clauses encompassing several aspects of the relevant relationship, from forum selection to
dispute resolution, from worker classification to limitations of liability. Nondisclosure and
non-compete agreements can be included in this kind of forms
32
. Contracts are usually drafted
purporting to create a self-employment relationship. Such clauses are unlikely to be legally
enforceable and the ‘coerced’ labelling in a participation agreement may be easily disregarded
when reality casts doubt on such statements.
31
Moreover, there are realistic reasons for arguing that both workers and clients do not authentically
agree on anything when pushing the ‘I Agree’ button, provided that these kinds of contracts require no
explicit manifestation of assent.
32
On the contrary, Deliveroo riders are allowed to work for other on-demand economy businesses
simultaneously.
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
18
Moreover, workers are often asked to agree on a great number of obligations in contradiction
with the status of a self-employed provider. Amidst such forms that many users might not
even have read, workers can make inquiries and receive template responses.
The specific arrangement of work provision and remuneration can be made between the
platform worker and client, or the platform worker and platform.
In a minority of cases, an employment contract establishes the platform worker as an
employee and the platform as an employer. There are few platforms (such as YouGenio)
which hire workers under an employment contract with a plant-level collective agreement
based on the multiservice national collective agreement. In Italy, riders could be covered by
the collective agreement in the logistics, trade or tourism sectors
33
.
No examples of employed platform workers were found for purely online platforms.
Discussion on formal relationships
Each platform is a case unto itself, but very often underlying these models are forms of HR
management that are very similar to traditional employment. In particular, technology allows
platforms to have an instant overview of the demand for their services and of the labour
supply, and to assign work contracts as and when required. Technology also allows platforms
to monitor the workers’ location and their speed in performing a given task, thereby
increasing the platform or clients’ control over workers. Technology does not really change
the structure of the employment relationship, but it certainly allows the platform to switch the
employment relationship on and off according to need (Newsroom, 2018).
As was indicated above, formal relationships are often determined by the terms and
conditions of the platforms, which can be problematic especially when the employment status
is ambiguously defined as is often the case. The general terms and conditions for example
state that the activities are conducted at the own risk of the worker, which implies that the
worker needs to be organised as self-employed. But this is not explicitly stated and not
necessarily in line with the applicable legislation. A certain uniformity between platforms can
be identified (Prassl and Risak, 2017). Noticeably, the wording seems to be conceived in
order to remain ambiguous and prevent a potential loss for the platform in case of a lawsuit.
The lack of clarity about the employment status creates uncertainty on the side of the worker,
for instance about the responsibility for training and supervision. Moreover, it might
discourage platforms to provide more favourable conditions for workers such as benefits, to
avoid that they are considered employers.
Transport services and delivery platforms often exercise supervision, direction, and control
over how the tasks are completed. For example, food delivery couriers are strongly
recommended to wear a commercial uniform, use their own vehicle, bring a branded
backpack, show up in a defined hotspot, then log onto the app from their smartphone and wait
for the first order. Workers own the necessary equipment or rent it from the platform with a
monetary deposit. While delivering fresh meals from a restaurant to the customer’s address,
they have to follow the suggested route and check the timer, in order to carry out their duty as
quickly as possible. Moreover, they are required to interact with the middle management of
the platform via internal channels of communication (chat or apps). Workers have to pay for
33
With the collective agreement, rider has become a contractual position for which working conditions
can be negotiated (Baratta, 2017). The contract includes all the protections, wage levels, insurance and
social security typical of an employment relationship. The working time is flexible and can be either
full-time or part-time (within a limit of 39 hours per week), for up to six days a week, and with a daily
minimum of two hours and up to a maximum of eight, with the possibility of combining the urban
delivery of goods with work in a warehouse. The personal protective equipment, such as helmets and
fluorescent safety jacket, are expected to be borne by the companies (Rassegna, 2018).
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
19
all running expenses (petrol, insurance, taxes) and assume all responsibility should an
accident occur.
In the on-demand household services subsector, instead, performances such as cleaning, home
or electronics repair, furniture assembling or refurbishing, gardening, painting apartments,
hauling clothes to the laundry, handyman-like tasks can be commonly executed with a certain
degree of autonomy, although workers have to conform to guidelines and instructions.
Platform work is allocated through open calls rather than by direct assignment or sharp job
role requirements. The selection mechanism varies from platform to platform. At least three
principal models can be described. The hiring procedure may be organised as a bid in
response to a public auction (this occurs mostly when the task to be completed is a creative
one), as an automatic matching operated by the internal algorithm on the basis of the
specification of the service required and the worker’s profile, or in a different approach, the
worker may spontaneously apply for the fulfilment of the task in a ‘slot’ (Aloisi, 2018a).
Selected shifts may be proposed for the rider to choose the most suitable arrangement. There
are also platforms that demand the availability of workers at a certain time period. Foodora
and Deliveroo are organising their workforce in shifts. Schedules are stable from week to
week
34
. Platform workers say when they are going to be available, and then shifts are
assigned on the basis of this information. Once a platform worker logs in to the platform, the
work does not follow the traditional self-employment route: work is monitored, prices are
fixed by the platforms, there is a rating system that also takes into account the customer’s
level of satisfaction, and algorithm-driven assessments are made to understand whether the
service was successful or not. If the algorithm returns a poor performance, the worker is either
penalised, expelled from the platform, given less favourable shifts, or assigned less work (De
Stefano, 2018).
Workers using contest-based platforms enjoy a higher degree of autonomy than the platforms
where the platform allocates the tasks.
There are two main models when it comes to payments: either the client or the worker can set
the rate, while in almost all cases the platform handles the payments. Platform workers are
mostly remunerated not on an hourly, but on a piece rate or ‘per-drop’ basis, in this case
workers are pushed to complete as many deliveries as possible within an hour.
The issue of qualifying platform work under employment law is rather complex. Decisions
accepting the workers’ claims could point towards work activities that do not correspond to
the idea of genuine self-employment the lack of independence when completing the task or
in setting its price, the instructions given by the platforms and the control they exert over the
time spent for every task and over the quality of the work done, also through the customers’
rating. The ones rejecting these claims, however, point to elements that do not correspond to
the commonplace idea of employment, such as the flexibility of deciding if and when to work
and the ability to ask someone to replace them in doing the job (De Stefano, 2018).
Organisation and representation in platform work
The Italian system of industrial relations formed in the post-World War II period. Most
bargaining takes place at the sector level between employee organisations and employer
organisations, and most negotiations take place at the national level. Trade union freedom is a
fundamental principle of Italian industrial relations granted by article 39 of the Constitution.
Individuals have the right to organise themselves, but also the possibility to choose, join or
leave a union without any condition (Treu, 2014).
34
Riders argue that their flexibility declined dramatically since the company has adopted a model
based on weekly shifts. A leaflet containing Deliveroo workers’ complaints and claims can be found at
https://goo.gl/Y1jPJt (in Italian).
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
20
Almost every national trade union confederation has set up a working group on ‘digital
transformation of work’ with a specific focus on platform work. Mainly, unionists are trying
to enter into contact with platform workers. Conversely, employer organisations seem to be
silent on this issue and focus their attention more on digitalisation in general.
Platform workers seeking to organise new unions might struggle with the absence of a
workplace. According to interviewed employee organisation representatives, platform
workers are not usually physically present at a single workplace or may not share a common
‘class consciousness’. These practical difficulties are especially relevant for online platform
workers: many do not see the significance of unions since they do not even see themselves as
workers. They are geographically dispersed, isolated, and sometimes highly mobile. The
short-term, task-based, and on-demand nature of platform work might place platform workers
in direct competition with each other (Tullini, 2018a; Forlivesi, 2018). This makes it difficult
to build collective voice. In addition to geographical disaggregation and genuine reluctance,
practical obstacles might be workers’ fear of retaliation, the implicit threat of
dismissal/account deactivation.
In the very first wave of non-standard employment, unions responded to the needs of non-
standard workers by creating specific representational opportunities in existing labour
confederations for such workers (Pulignano et al, 2015)
35
. In Italy, the three main unions the
Italian General Confederation of Labour (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro,
CGIL), the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions (Confederazione Italiana
Sindacati Lavoratori, CISL) and the Italian Labour Union (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, UIL)
have opened sections aimed at precarious and freelance work. These unions are more based
on employment classification than the traditional sectoral or occupational segmentation,
allowing them to focus on specific classification related issues such as term of contracts,
remuneration, working conditions and labour rights (Johnston and Land-Kazlauskas, 2018).
But for the time being, the three central union bodies have difficulties in representing
platform workers. Also the rank-and-file independent union Inter-Sectoral Self-Organised
Workers’ Union (Sindacato Intercategoriale Cobas Lavoratori Autorganizzati, Si-Cobas)
started representing the riders in the food delivery sector
36
.
At the local level, the city of Bologna has launched a ‘Charter of fundamental digital workers’
rights within an urban setting’
37
, signed on 31 May 2018 by the city’s Mayor Virginio
Merola, the Riders Union Bologna (a worker-organised initiative), the secretaries of the
Italian General Confederation of Labour (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro,
CGIL), the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions (Confederazione Italiana
Sindacati Lavoratori, CISL) and the Italian Labour Union (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, UIL)
and by the managers of a food delivery company employing 200 workers in Bologna
(Martelloni, 2018; Ciccarelli, 2018). According to Martelloni (2018), these initiatives are
building a new ‘metropolitan social unionism’ using ‘tools for collective action and forms of
organisation and communication adopted in the UK during the protests lead by Uber drivers.
The ‘Charter’ provides for:
a fixed and fair hourly pay rate greater or equal to the salary minima set in national
collective conventions for similar services provision,
35
Pulignano et al (2015) argue that the response of unions to atypical work arrangements has focused
primarily on one of two strategies. The first has been to reject non-standard work arrangements,
fighting instead for full-time stable employment. The second has been to ‘adopt strategies aimed at
improving working conditions, social rights and wages of such workers’.
36
See also https://www.facebook.com/USBriders/.
37
‘Carta dei diritti fondamentali del lavoro digitale nel contesto urbano’, available at
http://www.comune.bologna.it/sites/default/files/documenti/CartaDiritti3105_web.pdf.
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
21
compensation for overtime work, public holidays, and when weather conditions are
inclement,
a ban on discriminatory behaviour,
official notification including justification in cases where workers are excluded from
a platform,
insurance (covered by the platform) for accident risk and illness at work as well as
accidents ‘en route,
compensation for bicycle maintenance costs,
freedom of association and the right to strike.
In Milan, the municipal administration inaugurated the first office in Italy dedicated to
listening, information and advice for workers of food delivery platforms. The office will
also offer free training courses on road safety, safety at work and basic sanitary rules for food
transport (Ansa, 2018a). The Italian region of Lazio drafted a manifesto of the ‘Fundamental
rights in the gig-economy’
38
, and a new proposed draft legislation
39
has been adopted after a
public consultation phase regulating wage, health and safety and social security aspects of
platform work, despite the lack of competence to legislate in this field at regional level
(Martelloni, 2018).
In fact, trade unions appear to support initiatives of platform workers rather than to go in
competition with them. Italy’s new bargaining agreement in the logistics service sector, for
example, includes riders among its contractual qualifications (Casadei, 2017). Specific
provision of this position were negotiated (Rassegna, 2018). Such experiments show the
workers’ capacity to creatively find a space for negotiation and regulatory advances in a
context in which companies are refusing to bargain’ (Zamponi, 2018).
Organisation of platform workers
Platform workers may lack direct channels of communication and are deprived of a collective
voice due to the characteristics of the platform, thus leading to the difficulty to have an impact
on the decision-making that shapes labour processes. It is against this background that
movements of interests based on distributed leadership, disconnection from traditional trade
unions, and spontaneous mobilisation focused on sectorial issues are rising and becoming an
effective advocate for decent work and even a tool for social emancipation.
Platform workers have shown the willingness to organise collectively through either
grassroots organisations or traditional labour unions (Aloisi and De Stefano, 2017; Berg and
De Stefano, 2018). Some of the platform workers, in particular on-location platform-
determined, are represented by trade unions or via own initiatives such as self-organised
grassroots movements and advocacy groups.
Platform workers of several delivery platforms have carried out worker-organised initiatives
including strikes, boycotts
40
, mass disconnection during promotional events and flash-mobs in
Bologna, Milan and Turin, in addition to information campaigns (for example, handing out
38
Available at https://www.regione.lazio.it/gigeconomy/.
39
See ‘Proposta legge regionale “Norme per la tutela e la sicurezza dei lavoratori digitali’, available
at https://goo.gl/im1i12.
40
In October 2016, after being repeatedly ignored by the management, a group of 50 Foodora workers
staged their first public protest (a ‘proto-strike’) in Turin, calling for a boycott of the app. The protest
erupted following the announcement of a change in the payment system from hourly rate to ‘per
delivery’ (Aloisi and De Stefano, 2016). In addition to this, workers demanded to ‘be classified as
employees and covered by a national collective [agreement] and thus by the minimum wage levels set
therein’ and to stop retaliatory actions against workers perceived to be ‘troublemakers’. In response to
the requests, Foodora increased the delivery fee from €2.70 to €3.60 (Tassinari and Maccarrone, 2017).
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
22
flyers). These workers have organised into groups, relying on social media. Especially in the
food delivery sector, they are increasingly voicing their opinions via online tools enabling
them to manifest their collective interests through, for example, circulating petitions,
developing alternative systems for rating platforms or those placing orders, sharing positive
and negative experiences, and reaching out to the media
41
.
For the time being, workers populate private groups on social media such as Facebook and
Whatsapp to coordinate actions combining ‘traditional’ tactics ‘with newer forms of solidarity
aimed at increasing the disputes’ visibility and attracting public support’ (Tassinari and
Maccarrone, 2017). As of early 2018, a number of alternative strategies have been pursued to
help workers to organise, effectively express individual and collective grievances and demand
rules aimed at contrasting unjustified rejections of the work completed or capricious
deactivation of their accounts (Robertiello, 2017; Zamponi, 2018). Moreover, some self-
financed event groups supported the lawsuit against Foodora aimed at proving thatthe
contractual relationship between the platform and the couriers is of a subordinate nature.
These efforts, however, may be materially hurdled by current regulatory limits banning self-
employed workers from joining unions or engaging in collective bargaining, since they would
be in breach of antitrust law and risk heavy sanctions (De Stefano, 2016d). The large majority
of platform workers is not represented. This is partially due to many being self-employed,
which are traditionally not represented.
However, the ongoing mobilisation often remains confined to the relevant sector and hardly
exceed this dimension. Meanwhile, several spontaneous initiatives have been developed with
modest results at national level. Sectorial and territorial federations, such as Italian Workers
Union in the Tourism, Trade and Service Sectors (Unione Italiana Lavoratori Turismo
Commercio e Servizi, UILTuCS) and Italian Workers’ Federation for Trade, Hotel, Canteen
and Service Sectors (Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Commercio, Albergo, Mensa e Servizi,
Filcams) are promoting initiatives aimed at raising awareness about working conditions in
app- and platform-based work. In an interview, the CGIL representative asked to negotiate the
algorithms that determine the allocation of tasks (Baratta, 2017).
Organisation of platforms
For the time being, most of platforms claim to be open to the debate, but in certain cases have
said that they want to speak with individual workers, and not with the trade unions.
Platforms used to depict platform work as a mere ‘sharing of favours’, thus conveying an
image of the platform economy as a sort of parallel dimension, where chores are amateurishly
carried out as a form of leisure or to earn ‘pin money’, and where labour protection and
employment regulation are assumed not to be necessary.
There were occasions when platforms (for example, Foodora) had refused to discuss new
employment conditions with the union that platform workers had chosen to represent them on
41
In 2017, the self-organised collectives ‘Deliveroo Strike Raiders’, ‘Riders Union Bologna’ and
‘Deliverance Project’ signed a petition addressed to Deliveroo. The demands included the application
of the ‘national collective bargaining agreement on transportation, the introduction of an employment
contract, the renewal of all the contracts that were about to expire, a minimum wage of €7.50 an hour,
the guarantee of at least twenty hours’ a week pay, a 30% raise in case of rain or snow, a 50% raise in
case of deliveries lasting beyond the planned shift, and a 30% raise as a compensation for exposure to
smog, as well as insurance coverage, the reimbursement of maintenance expenses for the worker’s
bicycle and phone, and a safety kit with a helmet’ (Zamponi, 2018). Unlike the self-organised groups in
Turin and Milan, ‘Riders Union Bologna’ immediately addressed the claims towards the local
institutions, involving the municipality in the disputes’ (Martelloni, 2018). See
https://www.facebook.com/ridersunionbologna/. See also
https://www.facebook.com/DeliveranceProject/ and https://www.facebook.com/strikeraidersunited/.
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
23
the basis that platform workers are self-employed workers and therefore have no right to
unionise (Cant, 2017).
According to an interviewed representative of an employer organisation, employer
organisations have not sought to incorporate platforms as platforms do not view themselves as
employers such companies are just putting customers in touch with independent service
providers. For instance, traditional employer organisations like the General Confederation of
Italian Industry (Confederazione generale dell’industria italiana, Confindustria) have not
taken a great interest in platform work as of early 2018. On the contrary, in June 2018, a new
organisation for ‘all digital platforms’ has been launched by an employer organisation in the
trade sector (Confesercenti, 2018). Similarly, in a press release a group of food delivery
platforms operating in Italy (Deliveroo, Glovo, JustEat) stated that they met in Milan with the
view to launching a new sectoral employer organisation in light of a planned meeting with the
new Labour and Industry Minister Luigi Di Maio
42
. These initiatives could potentially lead to
further significant developments.
In June 2018, Foodora, Foodracers, Moovenda and Prestofood launched a draft charter of
rights ‘to demonstrate a commitment to guarantee the fundamental safeguards for riders’. The
document reveals the willingness to provide a coordinated and continuous collaboration
contract with clients, with INAIL insurance coverage in case of accident and INPS
protections, as required by such type of contract (Tonell, 2018). In addition to INAIL
insurance, companies have announced their intention to take out supplementary insurance for
damage to third parties, which could occur during the activity of food delivery. The four
platforms are loosely committed to providing a fair and adequate compensation partly on an
hourly basis and partly linked to the reward and motivational aspects’ to platform workers
(Covelli, 2018).
Despite this, most of platforms seem to refuse to form or join a new employer organisation.
As a result, it may prove difficult to establish labour relations with platforms (Jolly, 2018).
42
These platforms demanded an unambiguous and stable regulatory framework as well as a ‘unitary
representation body’ (CorCom, 2018).
Digital Age Employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work.
National context analysis: Italy
Disclaimer: This working paper has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.
24
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Annex: platforms mentioned in text
Platform
Platform work type
99designs
Online contestant specialist work
Amazon Mechanical Turk
Online moderately skilled click-work
Animali alla pari
On-location client-determined moderately skilled work
Appsquare
Online contestant specialist work
Clickworker
Online moderately skilled click-work
Co-hive
Online contestant specialist work
Deliveroo
On-location platform-determined routine work
EasyFeel
On-location platform-determined routine work
Expressoo
On-location platform-determined routine work
Foodora
On-location platform-determined routine work
Foodracers
On-location platform-determined routine work
Glovo
On-location platform-determined routine work
Helpling
On-location platform-determined routine work
Holidog
On-location client-determined moderately skilled work
Joebee
On-location client-determined moderately skilled work
Le Cicogne
On-location client-determined moderately skilled work
MakeItApp
Online contestant specialist work
Oltretata
On-location client-determined moderately skilled work
PrestoFood
On-location platform-determined routine work
Tabbid
On-location client-determined moderately skilled work
UberEats
On-location platform-determined routine work
Vicker
On-location client-determined moderately skilled work
YouGenio
On-location client-determined moderately skilled work
Zooppa
Online contestant specialist work
WPEF18056
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The European Foundation for the Improvement of
Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is a
tripartite European Union Agency, whose role is
to provide knowledge in the area of social,
employment and work-related policies.
Eurofound was established in 1975 by Council
Regulation (EEC) No. 1365/75, to contribute to the
planning and design of better living and working
conditions in Europe.
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In the studies on labour market change and transformation of employment relations, the growth of new forms of self-employment, including platform work, has raised a broad debate about how to define, classify, and analyse the wide range of positions within the heterogeneous category of self-employed workers. This article analyses the emergent methodologies used in European comparative labour statistics to identify forms of dependency in self-employment. Using the 6th wave of the 2015 European Working Condition Survey and the 2017 ad hoc module on self-employment from the European Labour Force Survey, this article discusses how the representation of dependent self-employment changes by adopting a different operationalization of economic and operational dependency. Findings show how different indicators of dependency change the representation of self-employment in different economic sectors, affecting our understanding of the transformation of working arrangements within self-employment and the boundaries between employment and self-employment.
... More recently, in relation to platform work traditional trade unions have made some embryonic attempts to organise riders (e.g. CGIL in Pavia, UIL in Milan) and have signed some largely symbolic agreements at local levels (De Stefano and Aloisi, 2018b). Grassroots groups have been most active in the cities of Turin, Milan, Bologna and Florence (Chesta et al., 2019;Leonardi et al., 2019). ...
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This article, based on a 6-month cross-national ethnography conducted in France and Italy, aims at contributing to comparative debates on the representation of platform workers. The study takes the cases of both traditional and alternative actors that currently represent platform workers. In particular, by investigating both trade unions and grassroots groups, research findings show the gap between discursive and effective representation in the two European countries studied. Drawing on Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick’s concept of ‘variable geometry of resistance’, we discuss how these gaps are wider or narrower depending on to what extent – in the two countries and in the studied organizations – there is capacity to build both solidarity in difference and alliances between traditional and alternative actors.
... It also guarantees trade union rights. 111 In July 2018, a "historic collective agreement" was signed between the Danish trade union 3F and "Hilfr.dk," a platform providing cleaning services. ...
Chapter
Non-standard forms of employment (NSFE) are on the rise in different sectors and various countries all over the world. Concomitantly, technological and organizational change represents a major challenge for collective bargaining systems, given that they are often still predicated on the concept of a standard employment relationship. Meanwhile, some innovative and spontaneous solutions are emerging. In order for collective bargaining, unions, and business associations to continue to be impactful in the “new world of work”, it may be necessary to adapt the way they currently operate. There may also be a need to adjust or update the relevant legal frameworks. This article investigates challenges to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining for non-standard workers, from a legal and practical perspective. In particular, the article examines the relevant legal framework with a critical approach and stresses the relevance of legal hurdles that non-standard workers face. After presenting the legal determinants of NSFE, the paper provides an analysis of existing legal frameworks regulating the organization of non-standard forms of work and the negotiation of terms and conditions of work at the supranational level, with a particular focus on the implications related to competition law and its rigid limits in the European Union system. Finally, it sketches a mapping of nascent initiatives of workers’ organization, by distinguishing classic resources of unionization from other tools (e.g. social media groups, strategic litigation, rating widgets) in a selection of European countries.
... No quantitative information is currently available that allows for the assessment of the impact of this measure, although the presence of Networkers. it in discussions at public and institutional level is stronger and stronger: for instance, it has been recently referred to as a best practice in recent studies by the International Labour Organization (ILO) (Johnston and Land-Kazlauskas, 2018) and by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) (De Stefano and Aloisi, 2018). ...
Experiment Findings
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... Initially, businesses using these work contracts did not have to pay any social contributions. This led to a substantial rise of this work type and according to experts most of the new para-subordinate workers had previously been classified as employees (De Stefano and Aloisi, 2018). Adding new work categories diminishes transparency of regulations for all stakeholders involved and therewith increases the potential for uncertainty and misclassification. ...
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Digitalization and its consequences for the Future of Work are a main global challenge for social security (ISSA, 2016). In particular, the emergence of digital work platforms (such as Uber or Upwork) has raised concerns about the sustainability and adequacy of social protection. The aim of this International Social Security Association (ISSA) project is, therefore, to assess the scope and insurance coverage of platform work. Additionally, it discusses good practices for social security to adapt to the expected rise in platform work. The project is based on a large cross-country survey of 30 social insurance institutions. The report shows that platform work is a heterogeneous phenomenon involving simple, low paid jobs as well as highly specialized, well-remunerated tasks. Differences occur also in terms of work location. A part of services is provided purely online (e.g. Upwork), while others are delivered only locally (e.g. Uber). Participation in platform work has risen rapidly over the past years, but is still small in size. Most available studies – mainly from developing countries – estimate that around 1 per cent of adult population is active in this new work form. A number of factors, however, speak in favour of a further growth. Platform workers often earn only an extra income from this new work form. Only about a quarter receives their main income from platform work. Higher shares are reported for developing countries. Hourly earnings differ but are often close to or below minimum wages in developed countries. Classification of platform work is fiercely debated, but less of an issue if social insurance coverage of self-employed and employed is aligned. In most countries surveyed self-employed platform work income is legally covered by statutory pension insurance. This is, however, often only the case if certain conditions, such as minimum income thresholds, are met. As consequence, income of side-jobbers – who represent the majority of platform workers – is often uncovered in about two thirds of countries. Effective insurance coverage seems to be even lower than legal coverage. This indicates that platform workers have limited information, resources and/or willingness to participate in available social protection schemes. The study presents various good practices from International Social Security Association (ISSA) countries to raise effective social insurance coverage of platform workers. This includes income reporting and contribution collection initiatives as well as digital information campaigns. These examples demonstrate the great potential of the platform economy to increase social protection coverage – in particular in developing countries with a large informal sector. At the same time, the gig economy raises new questions for social security, such as how to cover platform work provided purely online and across borders.
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The issue of online platforms’ employment is topical due to the emergence of questions of application of labor law, taxation and social insurance to such persons providing services via platforms. The purpose of this article is to develop recommendations regarding the regulation of relations arising between the platform and its employee in Russia, including the application of labor and business legislation, taxation and social insurance of such persons, taking into account the comparison of the legal regulation in Russia and in foreign countries. The methodology of the work is based on a comparative legal analysis of legal documents in foreign countries (Spain, Great Britain, Italy, France) and Russia. One of the international trends in the regulation of employment on online platforms is the application of labor laws to regulate the relationship between the employee and the platform, or the introduction of a special status of a “quasi-employee” with the provision of platforms with certain obligations to ensure the employment rights of employees. In Russia, the legal status of platform employees is not defined, it is not defined, e.g. whether a person is an employee, an entrepreneur, or a legal entity. For tax purposes, platform employees are usually self-employed (professional income taxpayers), so the article compares the approaches to taxation of such employees in Russia and in foreign countries. Furthermore, the selfemployed in Russia cannot pay social insurance contributions; the article discusses the approaches of foreign countries to social insurance of the self-employed, as well as the issue of the emergence of platforms’ obligations for social insurance of their employees, considering the application of labor law to the activities of those platforms.
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The paper compares the situation of platform workers engaged in ride-hailing and food delivery service in Russia and China. These countries share communist experience, similar trajectory of trade unionism development and have witnessed rapid growth of platform work in the last two decades. The lack of labor rights and benefits for gig workers is a global issue. It is complicated by the diversity of gig workers who generally vary from self-employed, independent contractors, part-timers, irregular workers, etc. However, the facts are becoming clear that platform entrepreneurialism is a business model designed to cut costs by shifting labor costs to the workers. It is particularly true for workers who work for one employer upon whom they are dependent on for their livelihood. Some countries have protected this group of “dependent employees.” Stirrings in China and Russia are beginning to call for that recognition. The problem of granting them the status of “employee” thus entitling these workers to an employment contract and eligibility for labor rights and benefits and the right to become members of unions has gained increasing attention both in China and in Russia albeit to a different extent and with different success. In the meantime, the frustrations of these workers sometimes result in public protests. The paper focuses on the experience of Russia and China in relation to ride-hailing and food delivery services. After an overview of the general trends of the development of gig work in these countries, the paper briefly analyzes the approaches toward the problem of the legal classification of these workers and trade unions’ responses.
Chapter
This chapter examines the challenges for collective worker representation posed by new business models in Australia and Italy, and assesses the effectiveness of responses from trade unions and emerging worker representative groups. The study draws upon literature relating to different approaches to representation of workers’ interests, to explore the collective dimensions of labour relations in the context of franchising, labour hire, independent contracting, complex supply chains and the gig economy. It examines how unions in both countries have sought to represent workers in these fissured work contexts, and the emergence of other forums for collective representation. The analysis covers four main strategies to build worker power: collective bargaining; lobbying to obtain improvements in the regulatory framework; litigation to challenge particular business models; and self-organisation or spontaneous worker protests. The chapter concludes that a new form of solidarity is indeed emerging in response to the adoption of various business models in Australia and Italy. The strongest examples can be found where unions utilise a multi-pronged strategy involving public campaigning, litigation of individual or group claims and grass-roots organising.
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In the framework of the so-called “sharing economy”, the number of on-demand companies matching labour supply and demand is on the rise. These schemes may enlarge opportunities for people willing to find a job or to top up their salaries. Despite the upsides of creating new peer marketplaces, these platforms may also be used to circumvent employment regulation, by operating informally in traditionally regulated markets. Literature showed how, by 2009, over 2 million worker accounts had been generated within these frameworks. Productivity may be fostered but, at the same time, a new version of Taylorism is disseminated (i.e. the fragmentation of labour into hyper-temporary jobs – they call them microtasks – on a virtual assembly line), strengthened by globalisation and computerisation. All these intermediaries recruit freelance or casual workers (these continue to be independent contractors even though many indicators seem to reveal a disguised employment relationship). Uncertainty and insecurity are the price for extreme flexibility. A noteworthy volume of business risk is shifted to workers, and potential costs as benefits or unemployment insurance are avoided. Minimum wages are often far from being reached. This paper will present a case study analysis of several “on-demand work” platforms, starting from the Amazon Mechanical Turk, one of the first schemes founded in 2005, which is arguably “employing humans-as-a-service”. It splits a single service in several micro “Human Intelligence Tasks” (such as tagging photographs, writing short descriptions, transcribing podcasts, processing raw data); “Turkers/Providers” (workers) are selected by “Requesters” to rapidly accomplish assignments online, are then rated according to an internal system and are finally paid (also in gaming credits) only if delivery is accepted. After having signed up and worked within some platforms, I comment upon TaskRabbit (thousands people on the service who bid to do simple manual tasks), Handy and Wonolo (personal assistance at a local level), oDesk and Freelancer (online staffing), Uber and Lyft (peer-to-peer ridesharing), Airbnb (hosting service), InnoCentive (engineering solutions), Axiom (legal research or service), BitWine (consultancy). Finally I highlight downsides and upsides of work in these platforms by studying terms of service or participation agreements to which both parties have to agree. I look into several key features such as (i) means of exchange/commodities, (ii) systems of payment, (iii) demographics, (iv) legal issues concerning status and statutory protection of workers, indicators of subordination, treatment of sickness, benefits and overtime, potential dispute resolution, and deprived “moral valence of work” and I discuss potential strategies to address these issues.
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The paper, after giving an overview of recent labour trends in the digital economy, describes alternative working arrangements such as "crowdworking" and "work on-demand via platform". The regulatory framework and the legal consequences of such innovative and non-standard forms of work are analysed in detail with emphasis on the (improper) classification of workers in the gig-economy. In the second section, the essay focuses on the recent Communication of the European Commission on Collaborative Economy that is aimed at establishing under which conditions an online platform should be considered a provider of the "underlying services". This focus is followed by an analysis of antitrust as well as labour law implications of Spanish, Italian and British recent rulings. The contribution explores the national attempts to craft an intermediate category between employees and independent contractors (from "quasi-subordination" to "project work"). As far as Italy is concerned, the "para-subordinate" category created an opportunity for uncertainty and arbitrage resulting in the erosion of protection. The article describes the notion of the so called "collaborazioni organizzate dal committente" (contractors whose performance is organized by the principal, legislative decree n. 81/2015) as a tool to expand crowdworkers' rights. The most recent Italian labour market reform could eventually provide a solution for the current disputes on how work in the gig-economy could be regulated. In fact, the scheme of "collaborazioni organizzate dal committente" could represent a useful template, since it broadens the scope of the protections granted to standard employees, without intervening on notions and definitions.
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The most recent studies have focused on the classification of the working activities carried out by the so-called “riders”, differentiating between self-employment and employment, suggesting the reintroduction of other types of working arrangements (so-called “quasi-subordinate” or “coordinated” employment), or pointing to the inadequacy of domestic legal frameworks in enforcing protection in relation to wage, working time, monitoring, union freedoms, and strike. The present essay is centred on another issue: it is assumed that the jobs carried out through digital platforms – in the specific case of working activities performed for gig economy companies delivering goods (e.g. Deliveroo, Foodora, Just Eat, etc.) or providing services to individuals and households (e.g. Vicker, Task Rabbit, etc.) – fall under temporary agency work. This entails a double conceptual shift: on the one hand, de iure condendo, if the digital platform (Foodora, Deliveroo, etc.) became a temporary work agency, it would be subject to the provisions set out in the Italian Laws nos. 81/2015 and 276/2003 (with some necessary law amendments concerning sanctions and references to collective bargaining); on the other hand (and this is the most important aspect of the present analysis), such digital platform (Foodora, Deliveroo, etc.) would be part of the unified (or, better, unitary) network of active labour market policies, being enabled to take part in job placement activities and matchmaking (i.e. matching of labour demand and supply) in relation to both traditional jobs (as already known) and gig economy jobs.
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Women make up 80% of the 67 million domestic workers globally, increasing numbers of whom are now turning to the rapidly-growing on-demand economy for domestic work in developing countries. The potential risks and benefits attached to this burgeoning form of work may therefore affect women disproportionately. On-demand work is not automatically empowering, and can shift risk from employers onto domestic workers themselves. This report proposes that urgent action be taken to ensure that the 'Uberisation' of domestic work evolves to the benefit of all. The infancy of the on-demand domestic work economy in developing countries means it is not too late to raise standards. This will involve proactive efforts by companies to 'design-in' good practice, as well as by government to ensure an integrated future policy, legal, practice and research agenda.
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This paper assesses the importance of digitalization in Germany and other developed countries, with particular attention on the potential or actual impacts this process may have on the labor market. Referring to available empirical evidence, we document the transformation of occupations and forms of employment as well as the role of the platform economy, including the phenomenon of solo self-employment. We then derive current and future challenges for social protection and develop proposals to adapt social insurance systems to these new challenges.
Chapter
This chapter aims at discussing the European approach to regulating the so-called “collaborative economy”, by looking at the main legislative initiatives regarding this set of fast-growing digital companies. Despite the potential efficiencies and benefits for customers, more recently, a counter-narrative has started revealing the “broken promise” of managing a contingent workforce mobilised on a “just in time” and “just in case” basis. The second section briefly describes the “collaborative economy” landscape and the dissemination of the heterogeneous category of “non-standard forms of employment” in the European scenario. The third section discusses the Uber case, the most visible symptom of a consolidated tendency towards fragmentation of the once solid relationship between the worker and the employing entity. In this respect, a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice on the nature of the service provided by the “transport platform” is analysed in depth. The fourth section investigates the European communications and resolutions which adapt the current legal framework and provide guidelines for regulating work in the collaborative economy, namely the Communication on the European agenda for the collaborative economy, the European Pillar of Social Rights, and other Parliamentary initiatives. The study is based on a theoretical and descriptive methodology. This chapter concludes by recommending a cautious regulatory approach. It has been highlighted that many online platforms are still in their business “infancy”, and experts genuinely do not know how they will develop. Consequently, legislative headlong rushes may end up crystallising the present state of the art, thus hindering “peripheral” entrepreneurial initiatives and blocking innovation. Surgical regulatory interventions shall help platform companies to adjust and improve their business model, in order to enter a new phase of “shared social responsibility”.