Managed by Bots
PI together with Worker Info Exchange (WIE) and the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) are challenging the surveillance techniques deployed by some of the biggest companies in the gig economy sector.
How would you feel if your boss was an algorithm? What would you do if your employer suddenly suspended you or reduced your pay without telling you why? This is not science fiction or some far-fetched reality - millions of people worldwide face these problems whilst working in the gig economy sector.
At PI, we've been concerned about the unprecedented surveillance that gig economy workers are facing from their employers. The monitoring that they are subject to demonstrates how the workplace could look for all of us in a near future.
Under the guise of productivity and safety, gig economy platforms and other employers are using dehumanising surveillance that can track every movement a worker makes. Workers should not have to choose between being surveilled at work and losing their job. That's why we are taking action against gig economy workplace surveillance.
What's the problem?
At the moment, in part as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many workers are facing increased surveillance from their employers. However, the gig economy workers have been facing unprecedented surveillance for years.
The inherent imbalance of power between employer and employee often means that workers may not be in a position to refuse the surveillance measures deployed and activated on their devices. This power imbalance is made much bigger by invisible data collection and opaque decision making. We've seen examples of workers being locked out of their accounts without being able to understand why. It shouldn't be this way. Workers globally shouldn't have to guess why they have been fired, suspended or locked out of their workplace platform.
For more and more working people, employers are letting algorithms to make key decisions about their members of staff. Don’t think that algorithmic management only affects delivery drivers and warehouse workers. Algorithms are seeping into more and more workplaces and they are coming for your job too.
This isn't the future we want to see. To stand up for workplace rights, we need to ensure employers always remain accountable for decisions they make about their workers and actions that they take.
What are we doing?
We have teamed up with Worker Info Exchange (WIE) and the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) in order to challenge the surveillance techniques deployed by some of the biggest companies in the gig economy sector, such as Uber, JustEat, AmazonFlex, Bolt, Ola, Deliveroo among others. In the wake of WIE's recent 'Managed by Bots' report, we have launched a public campaign to bring public attention to how workers within the gig economy are at the mercy of sophisticated but opaque algorithmic management.
We are launching a public petition in which you can be involved in challenging these invasive practices. We hope you are able to support this work by signing onto our letter, which will be sent to these companies. This letter will be used for future advocacy against remote and gig economy workplace surveillance.
We (PI, WIE, and ADCU) have also interviewed three private hire drivers. Together, we tell the stories of drivers’ experiences when trying to understand why their employers took certain decisions about their employment. Some decisions had onerous consequences. Our interviews highlighted the opacity of the decision making process, problems with the facial recognition technology systems and fears that the workers account could be suspended at any time, without explanation.