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  • Author or Editor: Milena Franke x
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Much is known about how labour platforms use ‘algorithmic management’ to implement rules which govern labour by matching workers (or service providers) with clients (or users). But little is known about whether and how platform workers engage with these rules by manipulating them to their own advantage, and how this accounts for wider ‘regime dynamics’ across (and within) different types of platforms (for example, on-location and online). Based on a comparative analysis of two food delivery (Deliveroo and Takeaway) and two freelancing (Upwork and Jellow) platforms in Belgium, we discuss the rules platforms use to govern labour and examine what role workers have in shaping a ‘space’ of control over the conduct of their work. Drawing on labour process theory, we argue that this space is shaped by the way in which platforms shift risks onto workers by rules governing access to work through rewards, penalties as well as labour deployment reflecting various contractual statuses. Hence, we explain how workers also shape such spaces by organising consent around these rules, pointing to a ‘social space’ for food delivery workers and a ‘market space’ for self-employed freelancers. These spaces refer to different regime types, that is, ‘pay-based control’ and ‘time-based control’ for food delivery, and ‘customer-based control’ and ‘task-based control’ for online freelancers. These types are shaped by the control and consent dynamics within labour platforms, reflecting the platforms’ labour governance strategies and workers’ attempts to ensure control over these strategies within the distinctive political institutional realm.

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This article examines how platform workers providing food delivery and domestic services in Belgium engage in contentions over unpaid labour time. Drawing on theories of organisational misbehaviour around the ‘wage–effort’ bargain, we explore how workers reclaim some control over their income by contesting their exposure to unpaid labour time. Based on a qualitative analysis of two labour platforms, the article illustrates how platforms’ systems of time control expose workers to unpaid labour time through work extensification (that is, food delivery) and work intensification (that is, domestic work). It also indicates how workers contest platforms’ control over unpaid labour time by developing various practices around platforms’ systems of control. Food delivery couriers increase their income by cutting down on unpaid idle time, while domestic workers try to improve their access to clients, jobs and pay which sometimes entails intentionally prolonging their unpaid labour time. Thus, we argue that examining workers’ contentions over unpaid labour time contributes to a better understanding of how workers can develop a sense of agency in a context of exploitative platform work by actively navigating and purposefully using their exposure to unpaid labour time to regain control over their income.

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