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.
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.
- 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.