The fight for labor rights has never been easy, even less when your occupation breaks the traditional forms of work, so much so that they don’t want to call you a worker. But those who work in digital platforms transport and distribution have been organized and the points around which they have united are social security and flexibility.
This labor movement is international and its progress is uneven. In Mexico digital laborers, as they have been called, demand their classification as workers, recognition of the employment relationship, flexibility to perform their services, fair payments and benefits, among other requests. This, in general, because there are opposing positions.
Everything indicates that the labor authorities will not let this global wave pass and are assuming their responsibility. The head of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS), Luisa María Alcalde, has said that they will present a reform proposal to Congress to guarantee rights to this population. To do this, she has maintained dialogue with companies and workers.
In Ni Un Repartidor Menos they grouped their demands into three axes: labor rights; non-violence, harassment and discrimination, and safe mobility. For the National Union of Application Workers (UNTA), for its part, “everything starts with the recognition of the employment relationship And from there a lot of rights come off.”
Sergio Guerrero, Secretary General of the UNTA, explains that this “could happen without a reform, as happened in the United Kingdom or Switzerland, where the courts established that the Uber drivers are employees”.
It is at this point where there is a disagreement between the organizations. “Starting with social security is a very good option, because it will benefit us all. For purists, labor” would be the main thing, says Saúl Gómez, founder and spokesman for Ni Un Repartidor Menos, but this work model “does not have a single way of regulation.”
The leader believes that Mexico can set a precedent, generating labor rights from social security. “The reform will not be perfect, but social security is progress and the most important thing is to keep it flexible.”
However, “if we leave aside the recognition of the employment relationship, this issue will cool down and there will be no way to make them (companies) comply with their basic obligations”, says Salvador Godínez, leader of the Union of Workers of Digital Platforms, Passengers and Food of Mexico (Sutram). “We are facing economic monsters that can do whatever they want if we give them space.”
Sergio Guerrero maintains that the employment relationship is what would really improve “the quality of life of application workers. And we hope that flexibility is not the bargaining chip, because we really want to keep it. Then other rights would come, such as Christmas bonuses, vacations, rest”.
Businesses have pointed out that “bad” regulation could kill off flexibility. “That has been the speech to scare the authorities and the workers and stop the reform. But with the right technology you can maintain flexibility”, he points out.
Formal proposals on the table
“The first thing we want is social security in its five schemes”, emphasizes Saúl Gómez. With this, those who suffer from an accident “can have a pension. We also think about retirement, because we don’t want or can be delivery drivers all our lives, we must have the expectation of reaching a certain age and retiring with dignity”.
Since the start of the pandemic, “72 colleagues have died” without receiving adequate care and leaving their families without any security, he adds. “All this would change with social security” and the hybrid model approved in Chile could work in Mexico, she believes.
At UNTA, his second request is full access to social security, “which is not just about medical service, but is retirement savingshousing credit, paid disabilities and other benefits.
Trade union organizations have already presented their proposals to the STPS. In August, 25 groups, including UNTA and Sutram, delivered a “Minimum Floor Manifesto” with 10 basic points that they ask to be included in the official project. Last week, meanwhile, the Ni Un Repartidor Menos movement presented the draft of a new chapter for labor legislation.
Some proposals are the definition of the digital platform workers with three categories: eventual, half salary and full salary; that remuneration be set per day, work order, connection time, tickets sold or kilometers traveled, and that the scope of legal provisions against sexual harassment and discrimination for those who work in applications be extended.
Trade union groups are born in the sector
Saúl Gómez started working in the platforms at the end from 2016. “He came from another place just as devoid of rights”, from Monday to Sunday he worked in a business selling laminate floors with a salary of 1,200 pesos per week. When on his first day as a delivery man he earned just over 4,000 pesos, he felt “that it was there.”
Sergio Guerrero’s story in apps began in 2018. He studied at the Faculty of Economics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and worked in a Starbucks cafeteria, but the working day That made it difficult for him to go to class. So he resigned, with his settlement he bought a bicycle and signed up for an application as a delivery man. His income grew and he had great schedule flexibility.
For both of them, at first everything was almost perfect. “But I soon realized how risky this job is and that we don’t have no kind of benefit, not even medical service”, says Sergio Guerrero. “I wanted to soak up the information and I came across investigations and international jurisprudence that recognize us as workers.”
That gave him the foundations to start organizing with other colleagues and in July 2021 UNTA received the official union registration. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) has accompanied them in this process.
Meanwhile, Ni Un Repartidor was born from the death of José Manuel Macías Flores in a road accident. The accident of his partner was difficult for Saúl Gómez and many others, but they channeled it into the organization. “First it was a group to help us in case of accidents or other problems.” The next thing was to learn about labor rights and demand them, for which they have received support from the organization Nosotrxs.
“In Sutram we started at the end of 2019 “in the face of the abuse of the applications, the lack of security and the death of many colleagues in accidents whose families did not receive any compensation”, says Salvador Godínez. “We managed to echo several organizations already grouped in different parts of the country and we are currently 10,000 of us partners.”
To create the UNTA, the first struggle was internal, because for demand labor rights “You need your colleagues to see themselves as workers. At first, there were those who thought of themselves as freelancerentrepreneurs, independent workers”, says Sergio Guerrero.
It has been an ideological battle, he says. The neoliberal discourse diluted class consciousness, “under the delusion that everyone can be their own boss” and with it the corporate liability disappear, comment. If we add to this “the loss of prestige of the union organization in general, convincing them that the union is the way to defend labor rights was very difficult.”
The other difficulty of collective organization is that they do not have a workplacewhich prevents in a certain way that they can agree on a point to exchange opinions and experiences.
For Saúl Gómez, for his part, “people are not so interested in be unionizedWhat he wants is to work. Before talking about unionization, “we have to get rights that those organizations can later fight for.”
He also considers that the STPS “does not review in detail” compliance with the labor reform to democratize unions. Opacity and corruption in these organizations prevail, he believes. “At this moment that model (unionism) does not represent us. We need to continue building the rights that we need to defend before going to a union model.”
The allure begins to fade
The bonanza of the first years ended, at least for the working party. More people and companies arrived bonuses and payments droppedsays Saúl Gómez. The income they receive now is no longer the 4,000 pesos a day that they could earn in one day.
“On the one hand, before there was not so much labor, so it was relatively well paid. But the service became more expensive for the clients and the payments for the workers were reduced”, says Sergio Guerrero.
The algorithm also plays a role. “We have realized that for new workers there is a certain pace of work that is higher than for those of us who have been there for a long time. That works as a hook to attract more people. I remember that when the applications first arrived, people quit their jobs to dedicate themselves to this for the good income.
In this regard, Salvador Godínez says that “lately the applications they charge a lot of commissions”. For example, the option of choosing trips that are on their way home, which they use when they are close to finishing their day, “takes away almost everything that they charge the passenger.”
The dynamic rate, in which trips can double their cost from one moment to the next, “it doesn’t really benefit us. Almost all of this is kept by the companies”. In general, he calculates, for every 100 pesos, the applications keep up to 70 pesos.
For all this, Sergio Guerrero, leader of the UNTA, insists: “We know that perhaps our proposals will be diluted in this social dialogue process. But something non-negotiable for us is the recognition of the employment relationship”.
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