CICOPA presented the platform cooperatives’ perspective at the European Social Economy Conference in San Sebastian

21 November 2023

Last 13 and 14 November CICOPA attended the European Social Economy Conference “Social Economy: People, Planet, Action” which highlighted the need for models of economic and social management that include economy, welfare and the environment. 

On the second day of the Conference CICOPA organised a parallel event on “Platform cooperatives and Labour rights in the digital economy” to provide the worker cooperatives’ perspective on why the regulatory framework for the platform work is crucial, and what is the impact of the lack of regulation on platform cooperatives.  

Presentations by experts stressed the need of regulation for the platform economy. Maravillas Espin, Director General for Self-Employment, Social Economy and CSR from the Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Economy, presented the case of Spain’s Rider’s law. In 2021, the Rider’s law was refined through social dialogue nationally before feeding into the negotiations for the directive at European level.  

Both Maravillas Espin and Francesca Martinelli, from Centro Studi Doc Foundation, expressed their concern on the use of algorithms that do not respect democratic control and transparency. Indeed, all speakers recalled the need for regulation to ensure fair competition, employment status and to improve the labour conditions for platform workers.  

The results of a survey conducted by CICOPA and addressed to its members confirmed the common concerns by showing that the misclassification of workers as self-employed as well as the lack of employment rights are the main challenges when it comes to digital platform cooperatives.  

From the institutional perspective, the International Labour Organisation examined that developed and developing countries face the same challenges and it emphasized that a way forward is international dialogue and coordination and the establishment of regulation at all relevant levels.

Next, three testimonies from platform cooperatives located in Europe shared their experiences, such as the Italian social cooperative Robin Food Cooperative and the Spanish Eraman Coop, which pursue an ethical and sustainable alternative in the delivery sector. According to them the cooperative model encourages an inclusive environment through its horizontal approach, and it offers a better understanding of social and security issues caused by the digital economy 

At the international level, three good practices have then discussed the challenges that platform cooperatives face in the digital economy, and they identified common solutions by sharing their experiences. Examples from Japan, Colombia, and Argentina showcased the insufficiency of control and regulation in the platform economy. For example, CONFECOOP from Colombia called attention to the on-going debate in the Colombian government about the introduction of regulation to ensure workers’ dignity and labour rights in the digital economy.

Participants highlighted the pivotal role of platform cooperatives in ensuring decent work and labour rights to platform workers. However, there is a need to better recognise the added value of platform cooperatives in providing decent working conditions for platform workers and protect platform workers by implementing specific regulations and more strict monitoring.  

The event brought cooperatives to think about how to promote solidarity and cooperation among them and foster better relations with institutions in order to support platform cooperatives and cooperatives engaged in platform work. 

The conference was followed in the evening by a performance of the Cooperative Symphony with the collaboration of the Basque National Orchestra that took place during the DENON ARTEAN Award Ceremony which closed the first day of the conference.