Platform Labour and Structured Antagonism: Understanding the Origins of Protest in the Gig Economy

37 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2019

See all articles by Alex Wood

Alex Wood

Oxford Internet Institute; University of Oxford

Vili Lehdonvirta

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: March 5, 2019

Abstract

This article investigates why gig economy workers who see themselves as self-employed freelancers also engage in collective action traditionally associated with regular employment. Using ethnographic evidence from remote gig economy workers in North America, the United Kingdom and the Philippines, we argue that labour platforms reduce the risk of false self-employment in terms of the worker-client relationship. However, in doing so, they create new forms of worker dependency on the platforms themselves. We term this relationship ‘platform labour’, and demonstrate that it entails a ‘structured antagonism’ which manifests as perceived conflicts over platform fees, pay rates, and lack of worker voice. This creates desires for representation, greater voice and even unionisation towards the platform, while retaining entrepreneurial attitudes towards clients. By refocusing industrial relations on structured antagonism instead of the employment relationship we can understand conflict, protest and organising in new and diverse forms of work.

Keywords: Employee voice; flexibility; industrial relations; technology; trade unions

JEL Classification: J530

Suggested Citation

Wood, Alex and Lehdonvirta, Vili, Platform Labour and Structured Antagonism: Understanding the Origins of Protest in the Gig Economy (March 5, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3357804 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3357804

Alex Wood (Contact Author)

Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

University of Oxford

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Vili Lehdonvirta

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
218
Abstract Views
993
rank
143,868
PlumX Metrics