The Leeds Index of Platform Labour Protest aims to build a global database of reported instances of protest by platform workers.

Developed by researchers at Digit and Leeds Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change, the database is a unique resource for the macro-level study of platform worker protest on a global scale.

The Index identifies:

  • the date and location of each protest event,
  • the cause (mainly covering pay, employment status, and working conditions);
  • the kind of dispute (strike, demonstration, legal action, online action); and
  • the type of actor leading the dispute (differentiating between a mainstream trade union, an insurgent or unofficial union, self-organized groups of workers, and joint actions)

The Leeds Index therefore aims to understand regional patterns of protest and to situate lessons of these disputes in a wider global picture.

An interactive map makes the findings searchable and visualises the spread of platform labour protest across time and space.  This tool will enable unions and other activists to share, on a previously unattainable scale, information on what other activists are doing around the world and in different sectors.

Methodology

The Leeds Index draws data from 2 sources:

  • GDELT which monitors worldwide news reports, with real-time translation of online news articles in over 100 languages. It is searchable for years since 2017;
  • the China Labour Bulletin, to specifically identify protests in China.

Although GDELT is known for its own machine-based event coding system, the Leeds Index team conduct their own searches for articles on each of the companies against relevant keywords, such as “protest”, “strike”, “resistance”, “fight”, “dispute”, and gig worker.

Results are checked against other sources, such as online tech reporting, activists and union websites to improve accuracy.

Emerging findings

  • In the period January 2017 to July 2020, 1,271 instances of worker protest in four platform sectors were identified: ride-hailing, food delivery, courier services and grocery delivery.
  • in this period, the single most important cause of platform worker protest was pay, with other protested issues including employment status, and health and safety.
  • In most global regions, strikes, log-offs and demonstrations predominated as a form of protest.
  • Platform worker protests showed a strong tendency to be driven from below by worker self-organization, although trade unions also had an important presence in some parts of the world.
  • From the four platform sectors examined, ride-hailing and food delivery accounted for most protest events.
  • Although the growth of platform worker organization is remarkable, formal collective bargaining is uncommon, as is formal employment, with ad hoc self-organized groups of workers dominating labour protest across the different sectors, particularly in the global South.

Researchers

Leeds University Business School
Leeds University Business School
University of Leeds Business School
Leeds University Business School
Leeds University Business School
Leeds University Business School

Research outputs

Theorising labour unrest and trade unionism in the platform economy

Joyce, S., Stuart, M. and Forde, C. (2022), New Technology, Work and Employment

A global analysis of worker protest in digital labour platforms

Bessa, I., Joyce, S., Neumann, D., Stuart, M., Trappmann, V. and Umney, C. (2022) International Labour Organization

Digitalised management, control and resistance in platform work: a labour process analysis

Joyce, S. and Stuart, M. (2021), Chapter 7 in Work and Labour Relations in Global Platform Capitalism, ILERA

Global Labour Unrest on Platforms: The case of food delivery workers

Trappmann, V., Bessa, I., Joyce, S., Neumann, D., Stuart, M. and Umney, C. (2020) Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

A global struggle: worker protest in the platform economy

Joyce, S., Neumann, D., Trappmann, V., and Umney, C. (2020), European Trade Union Institute Policy Brief

Digit researchers’ findings on labour protests during the pandemic published by ILO

The report documents protests by key workers in healthcare and retail against their working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digit researchers at the SASE 2022 conference

Digit researchers discussed their work at the SASE cofnerence, 9-11 July 2022 in Amsterdam.

New ILO paper by Digit researchers on platform labour protest

A new paper by Digit researchers, published by the International Labour Organization, "A global analysis of worker protest in digital labour platforms", aims to develop an understanding of labour unrest among platform workers as a global phenomenon.

Mapping protest in platform work: Introducing the new Leeds Index of Platform Worker Protest

The Leeds Index tracks where protests takes place, against which companies and over what grievances. 

Contested delivery platforms in Argentina: what do platform workers want?

In South America, “health and safety” is one of the main demands in platform labour protests.