European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions
Together for decent work and fair pay from farm to fork

Sharing economy: A trend trade unions can cope with


On 27 June – the first day of the ETUI-ETUC conference on "Shaping the world of work" – EFFAT General Secretary Harald Wiedenhofer discussed the new forms of work and labour practises that are emerging from the development of digital platforms.

When addressing how the future of work is impacted by new forms of digitalisation, Harald Wiedenhofer focused on the case of Airbnb in the tourism sector and highlighted how the platform is severely affecting traditional tourism businesses by fostering unfair competition through a deep economic shift. While Airbnb is growing fast, with over 60 million bookings already, the platform has zero marginal costs and does not comply with social, environmental, financial and consumer regulations applicable to hotel businesses.

Self-employed and excluded from social networks, this new type of workers is bearing all the risks of an unregulated job.

As the sharing economy unravels, trade unions are confronted with a more recent aspect of a long-standing challenge: growing precarious and informal work. Trade unions need to acknowledge new business models. They must use these opportunities and prevent social risk.

Trade unions can take many steps to shape rules and foster better working conditions on workers’ platforms, including: the special treatment of workers’ platforms as a new kind of work, likened to agency and part-time work; the introduction of new protection rules for the self-employed to fight informal and undeclared work; the need for a new definition of worker and employer, as the difference between ‘self-employed’ and ‘worker’ is increasingly blurred; the establishment of the platforms’ liability, which can be claimed through existing and new labour law.

Steps in this direction have increasingly been taken: while EFFAT itself already has a wealth of experience in representing and organising self-employed small farmers in the Agriculture sector, the recent ruling by the Polish constitutional court allowing the self-employed to join a union proves that our movement is ready to take on the challenges if its time.

The ETUI ETUC conference on "Shaping the world of work" is taking place in Brussels over three days from 27 to 29 June 2016.

Join the conversation on social media #ETUIOW16


EFFAT is the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions. As a European Trade Union Federation representing 120 national trade unions from 35 European countries, EFFAT defends the interests of more than 22 million workers towards the European Institutions, European employers’ associations and transnational companies. EFFAT is a member of the ETUC and the European regional organisation of the IUF.