Solidarity Center – Georgia App Worker: “Solidarity and unity in protecting our rights is essential:”

Facing fierce opposition from exploitative global app-based companies operating in the Republic of Georgia – where workers are subject to algorithmic whims to earn an insecure living – unions are fighting for the rights of platform workers through lobbying campaigns, legal challenges and organizing efforts.

“Solidarity and unity in protecting our rights is essential,” says David Rochikashvili, a driver for Georgia’s Yandex and Bolt food delivery app, who credits the Georgian Confederation of Trade Unions (GTUC) with helping drivers like him file a lawsuit to file in the Tbilisi City Court demanding recognition of drivers' employment relationship with Yandex and Bolt.

A report by the International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW Network), which analyzed 30 recent employment cases in 18 countries, found that app-based companies “go to extraordinary lengths to build an impenetrable legal arsenal around themselves, Trade unions and/or the state must overcome countless hurdles if it wants to impose employment obligations on companies acting as 'employers'.”

Persons denied legal worker status are not entitled to minimum wages, holiday or sick pay, social security contributions and the protection of workers' rights provided by national labor laws – including the right to safety at work. By wrongly rejecting direct employment relationships with app employees, app-based platform companies are increasing their profits at the expense of workers and jeopardizing decades of hard-won progress in human and labor rights toward decent work. Trade unions around the world are fighting back.

In Tbilisi – where the cost of living has risen dramatically, including rents that have more than doubled year-on-year – couriers at the food delivery company Wolt went on strike in 2023 to protest a new compensation system that the couriers say is significantly reducing their income would. Wolt owner DoorDash – which has generated more than $100 billion in revenue since its founding – was ranked second on Forbes' Midas List Europe last year.

Georgia's transportation and farm workers unions, among others, are stepping in to support rideshare and delivery workers' organizing efforts on various platforms.

“Hundreds of platform workers have organized themselves and are striving together to improve their working conditions [in Georgia]“says GTUC Vice President Raisa Liparteliani.

The Solidarity Center's ILAW network continues to train workers' rights lawyers from the Georgian Bar Association on how to protect the rights of delivery workers in the country's courts and to advocate for the rights and benefits of app-workers through legal conferences with Georgian policymakers and legal experts. Workers a practices methods exercises. And after Wolt courier Shakro Metrevelis' case failed in a lower court, ILAW and the GTUC are appealing to the Georgia Supreme Court to advance Metrevelis' groundbreaking efforts to gain legal status as an employee of Wolt LLC Georgia.

With the support of unions, workers on digital platforms, through courts and legislation, are beginning to make significant progress, particularly in Europe and Latin America. In a first for app workers worldwide, European Union (EU) member states last month reached a preliminary agreement on an EU Platform Work Directive that includes a presumption of employment and rights to algorithmic management.