Nastazja Potocka-Sionek

How to regulate "digital piecework"? Lessons from global supply chains

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Crowdwork; Digital labour platforms; Global supply chains; Code of conduct; Due diligence

The increasing prevalence of crowdwork platforms, i.e. web-based platforms through which work is fragmented and outsourced to an open, geographically dispersed crowd, poses formidable governance challenges. While momentum is growing towards regulating platform companies, there is little consensus on how to ensure effective enforcement of crowdworkers’ labour rights across jurisdictions. The paper contributes to the debate on an adequate normative response to this complex model of work organisation by revisiting the regulatory framework for global supply chains (GSCs). It carries out a comparison between crowdwork platforms and GSCs, finding that these business models share certain structural commonalities and pose a similar set of problems to transnational labour governance. Crucially, both digital platforms and lead firms in GSCs are a stark manifestation of the ways in which multinational companies exert (direct or indirect) influence on the working conditions downstream their production chains, without incurring any legal liability therefor. The central argument of the paper is that crowdwork platforms should be made legally accountable for ensuring adherence to labour standards in their ecosystem. Lessons learned from regulation of GSCs show that corporate social responsibility instruments and the soft-law human rights due diligence framework are insufficient to improve labour standards. The paper concludes with a claim for hardening the current regulatory framework and going beyond transparency and reporting obligations.

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