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Rappi Union in Colombia: the Challenge of Digital Platforms in Labor Formalization

The Rappi Union in Colombia already enjoys union immunity. What benefits can you achieve? It is one of the challenges that President Gustavo Petro will have .

rappi suitcase on a chair

Photo: Reuters

LatinAmerican Post | Luisa Fernanda Sánchez

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Leer en español: Sindicato de Rappi en Colombia: el reto de las plataformas digitales en la formalización laboral

Four years ago, the Union of Platform Workers (UNIDAPP) was born in Colombia. It is the first digital function union in the country for the domiciliaries of the Rappi delivery application, who seek, among other things, to obtain decent working conditions in the public space and demand rights guarantees from the platform.

Through a statement to public opinion, the union assured that UNIDAPP "was born from the nonconformity of thousands of platform workers who are precarious, unfairly blocked from applications and discarded."

Today, with their trade union immunity already established and backed by the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), the “rappitenderos” seek to create more opportunities for productive work that produces a decent income, with medical coverage and social protection.

As well as UNIDAPP, trade unions such as the Front of Digital Platform Workers in Ecuador (FRENAPP), the Platform Personnel Association of Argentina (APP) and the National Union of Application and Distribution Workers of Mexico (UNTA), have the same mission: to be recognized as workers and not as “collaborators, self-employed or independent workers".

What Do the Digital Platforms Say?

In Colombia and in the world, digital platforms have argued that they only fulfill their role as intermediaries between an offer (that is, the services of the delivery person or driver) and a demand (in this case the user) in which the provider of the services autonomously manages its schedule and work times.

Although these applications have defended their operating model, Fedesarrollo assures in its most recent study that Colombia is lagging behind in the labor development goals for 2030 due to growing unemployment and informality.

The Model of Unions in Latin American Countries and the World

Union models for digital platform workers in European countries do not operate in the same way as in Latin America. An example of them is the home delivery union movement in Spain called “United Distributors”, which emerged in 2021 when the discussion about the so-called “Riders Law” was just beginning, adopted by that country in May of that same year. The objective of the measure is "the defense, improvement, and projection of the collaborative model of autonomous work, proposing improvements that come from the delivery people themselves and wanting to make social dialogue effective."

In other words, this reform of the labor code immediately grants the formalization and status of salaried employees to home delivery people from platforms such as Deliveroo, UberEats and Glovo. The questions did not wait. Members of "Deliverers United" raised their voices in protest and stated that with this law they can lose their autonomy, decrease their income and harm those who are in an irregular administrative situation, without a residence permit, or asylum seekers.

Although the "Riders Law" is still in force, the union organization has mobilized on several occasions so that delivery men on digital platforms are recognized as independent workers.

Recently, the Labor Inspectorate imposed a fine of 78.9 million euros on the home delivery company Glovo for having more than 10,000 workers as “false self-employed” in Barcelona and Valencia. In other words, the platform decided to continue operating with external collaborators without having formalized them.

In other parts of the world, the situation is far from different. In 2021 California held a plebiscite where it was defined that the drivers and delivery men of a well-known application would be considered self-employed contractors after a lobbying campaign by the companies. Something similar happened in Great Britain, where the Supreme Court ruled that the employees of a distribution application could not be considered self-employed and are currently in a transition process to adapt to the regulations.

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However, in countries like Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela, the delivery platforms have not given their approval to reach an agreement with the delivery men, and Colombia is no exception. Many of the workers question the obstacles in the process of formalizing them, while others demand guarantees of sufficient, safe and healthy spaces for workers in this sector.

UNIDAPP assures that the situation of the delivery men is one of absolute job insecurity and that no progress will be made as long as the delivery companies do not recognize the task of home delivery as work. For now, it is expected that in the coming weeks, several proposals will be presented to President Gustavo Petro and the Ministry of Labor to seek solutions that help make the formalization of digital platform workers a reality in Colombia.