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Labour law

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19 Apr 2017

Uber has been granted an appeal against the ruling made last October by a tribunal in London, the UK, which found Uber drivers to be employers. The tribunal ruled that Uber drivers are not self-employed, as the company claims, but rather workers, who are entitled to rights such as holiday pay and the national minimum wage. The company will challenge this ruling, continuing to argue that the Uber application only functions as a platform linking drivers and passenger, and that drivers are self-employed, as they set their own hours and provide their own car and fuel.

14 Apr 2017

A judge in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has ruled that a Uber driver is an employee, and ordered the company to pay the driver USD25.000, including compensation for holidays, contributions to a severance fund, and USD15.000 in moral damages related to attacks from taxi drivers. The ruling is not the first of its kind in Brazil. In February 2017, a labour court in Minas Gerais also ruled that a Uber driver is an employee of the company and is entitled to workers’ benefits. Uber states that it would appeal the Sao Paulo judge's decision.

6 Apr 2017

Frank Field, chair of the UK Work and Pensions parliamentary committee investigating the so-called ‘gig economy’ has criticised Uber, Deliveroo, Amazon, and Hermes over the ‘unintelligible’ self-employment contracts these companies are offering their contractors. The MP expressed concerns over such contracts being confusing for contractors, who do not understand their rights, and are prevented from challenging their self-employed status. Referring specifically to Uber drivers, Field said that their contracts are ‘gibberish’. Uber reacted commenting: ‘We recognise our terms could be written in plainer English and we started the process of revising them some time ago'.

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It is frequently mentioned that the Internet is changing the way in which we work. ICTs have blurred the traditional routine of work, free time, and sleep (8+8+8 hours), especially in multinational corporation working environment. It is increasingly difficult to distinguish where work starts and where it ends. These changes in working patterns may require new labour legislation, addressing such issues as working hours, the protection of labour interests, and remuneration.

While this phenomenon requires broader elaboration, the following aspects are of direct relevance to Internet governance:

  • The Internet introduced a high level of temporary and short-term workers. The term ‘permatemp’ was coined for employees who are kept for long periods on regularly reviewed short-term contracts. This introduces a lower level of social protection of the workforce.
  • Teleworking is becoming increasingly relevant with the further development of telecommunications, especially with broadband access to the Internet.
  • Outsourcing to other countries in the ICT service sector, such as call centres and data processing units, is on the rise. A considerable number of these activities have already been transferred to low-cost countries, mainly in Asia and Latin America.

In the field of labour law, one important issue is the question of privacy in the workplace. Is an employer allowed to monitor employees’ use of the Internet (such as the content of e-mail messages or website access)? Jurisprudence is gradually developing in this field, with a variety of new solutions on offer.

In France, Portugal, and Great Britain, legal guidelines and a few cases have tended to restrict the surveillance of employee e-mail. The employer must provide prior notice of any monitoring activities. In Denmark, courts considered a case involving an employee’s dismissal for sending private e-mails and accessing a sexually oriented chat website. The court ruled that dismissal was not lawful since the employer did not have an Internet use policy in place banning the unofficial use of the Internet. Another rationale applied by the Danish court was the fact that the employee’s use of the Internet did not affect his working performance.

An additional point of concern arising with the ever-growing use of social networking is the delimitation between private and working life. Recent cases showed that employees behaviour and comments on social networking sites may address various topics, from workplace and co-workers to employer’s strategies and products, deemed as personal (and private) opinions, but which may considerably affect the image and reputation of companies and colleagues.

Labour law has traditionally been a national issue. However, globalisation in general and the Internet in particular have led to the internationalisation of labour issues. With an increasing number of individuals working for foreign entities and interacting with work teams on a global basis, an increasing need arises for appropriate international regulatory mechanisms. This aspect was recognised in the WSIS declaration, which, in paragraph 47, calls for the respect of all relevant international norms in the field of the ICT labour market.

Events

Instruments

Judgements

Case of Barbulescu v Romania - European Court of Human Rights (2016)

Other Instruments

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

GIP event reports

Work and Society (2017)
Decent Jobs for All (2017)
The Organization of Work and Production (2017)
The Governance of Work (2017)
How Youth of Today See the Future of Work and How They Will Contribute to Ensuring the Future We Want (2017)
ICANN58: Joint Meeting ICANN Board & Customer Standing Committee (2017)

Processes

IGF 2016 Report

 

Labour law gained higher prominence at IGF 2016, mainly through discussion of the impact of the digital economy (including the sharing economy) on labour rights (Digital Economy and the Future of Work - WS34). It was underlined that new economic models create new jobs, but at the same time this creates a challenge for the labour market to keep up with the needs of the industry. 

IGF 2015 Report

 

Developments in the digital economy also have consequences on employment. Digital Economy, Jobs and Multistakeholder Practices (WS 29) discussed the short-term phenomenon of job losses due to automation, which is believed will be offset by the job-creating impact of innovation in the long term.

 

 

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