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The Cost of the Gig Economy: Ciné-ONU screening of The GIG IS UP

On 21 April, Ciné-ONU screened The GIG IS UP, in partnership with One World in Brussels at Cinéma Galeries to mark International Workers’ Day on 1 May 2022. 

The GIG IS UP uncovers the real costs of the platform economy through the lives of people working for companies around the world, including Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo. From delivering food and driving ride shares to tagging images for AI, millions of people around the world are finding work task by task online. The gig economy is worth 5 trillion USD globally and is growing. And yet, the stories of the workers behind this tech revolution have gone largely neglected. Who are the people in this shadow workforce? The GIG IS UP brings their stories to light.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with Lieve Verboven, Director of the International Labour Organisations (ILO) Brussels office, Tommaso Alberini, Policy Officer at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, and Tom Peeters, the Deputy Federal Secretary Road Transport and Logistics at BTB-ABVV. The discussion was moderated by Sherri Aldis, Director of the UN’s Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) in Brussels.

The panellists during the panel discussion for 'The GIG IS UP'
The panellists during the panel discussion for ‘The GIG IS UP’

On the film 

International Workers’ Day celebrates workers and their rights. The GIG IS UP highlights workers’ rights within the new landscape of the gig economy, also known as the platform economy, and sheds light on the need for a new protection of these rights. The aim of screening this film was to spread awareness of the rapidly growing gig economy and the importance of workers’ rights as essential human rights.

Powerful stories 

The panellists agreed that the film highlighted how the platform economy functions, and, more importantly, powerfully demonstrated its cost to the lives of people working ​within it.

A bike-sharing graveyard found in Shenzhen, highlighting the environmental impact of bike-sharing.
A bike-sharing graveyard found in Shenzhen, highlighting the environmental impact of bike-sharing.

Sherri Aldis, Director of the UN’s Regional Information Centre (UNRIC), asked the audience if they had ever used Amazon, Deliveroo, Uber, or similar platforms, with an almost universal positive response. The presence of the gig economy in our lives was reiterated by Tommaso Alberini​, who highlighted how important it is that people are aware of what the gig economy is, how it is developing and what challenges it poses. ​As he put it, ​”the platform economy is a global phenomenon that has grown by 500% in the last five years.” In the EU alone, “there are around 20 million people who do platform work, and this number is expected to grow up to 43 million by 2025.”

Lieve Verboven stated that “jobs in the gig economy are offered by companies who do not play by the rules and use the business model to maximise profits. These companies will always find workers among the most vulnerable.” This was reiterated by Tom Peeters, the Deputy Federal Secretary Road Transport and Logistics at BTB-ABVV, ​who commented that “many companies in the gig economy take advantage of workers who lack opportunities in the regular labour market, such as migrants and refugees. It is very difficult for the workers to stand up for their rights, and that’s why we, as a Union, have the responsibility to stand up for them.”

Overcoming challenges to the rights of gig workers 

Following the film, the panellists answered questions from the audience.
Following the film, the panellists answered questions from the audience.

Lieve Verboven explained that due to the global scale of this economy, an international approach is necessary: “​fundamental conventions should apply to workers in the gig economy, as they do for all workers.”

On the EU level, Tommaso Alberini described a proposal for a Commission Directive, adopted in December 2021, to improve working conditions in platform work. This is necessary because many platform workers do not have access to existing regulations in the Member States where they live, nor do they have access to regular contracts, and there is a lack of knowledge on appealing unfair decisions when these are taken by algorithms.

Tom Peeters concluded that “every worker deserves a fair salary for the job they do, we have to stand up against these big companies to ensure workers get what they deserve.”

  • To watch the trailer for The GIG IS UP, click here.
  • For more information about the film, click here.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more information on upcoming Cine ONU events.

 

 

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