Theses defended

Gewerkschaften 4.0? Recursos de poder e trabalho via plataformas digitais na Alemanha e em Portugal (2012-2022)

Vamberto Miranda Filho

Public Defence date
January 17, 2024
Doctoral Programme
Labour Relations, Social Inequalities and Trade Unionism
Hermes Augusto Costa
This research is part of the studies developed in the PhD programme in Sociology (Labour Relations, Social Inequalities and Trade Unionism), of the Centre for Social Studies and the Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra - Portugal. The aim of the research was to investigate how IG Metall and STRUP have mobilised power resources in initiatives to organise and represent the collective interests of digital platform workers in the period 2012 to 2022 in Germany and Portugal respectively. The investigation sought theoretical framework in Jena's Power Resources Approach (PRA). The methodological strategy used was the multiple case study since it deals with union structures in two different countries. Initially, a literature review was conducted on the recent transformations in capitalism and labour relations, as well as on the topic of work via digital platforms. Then, three sources of evidence were used: semi-structured interviews, documentation and direct observation. In order to analyse the information, priority was given to the cross-case synthesis, which occurred in two stages: firstly, a chronological sequence of each trade union's initiatives was followed in two separate chapters; secondly, a comparison of the two cases was made in a subsequent chapter. The categorisation of the information, especially from the interviews, was done with the use of the MaxQda software. The category system used corresponded to the four power resources of organised labour (structural, organisational, institutional and social). Accordingly, a deductive approach based on the main concepts of PRA was undertaken. The results obtained were interpreted in the light of other studies on PRA as well as working via digital platforms. These suggest that: (01) In Germany the low remuneration and geographical dispersion of Crowdworkers makes the mobilisation of structural power difficult, while the use of digital technologies to put pressure on companies can favour the disruptive capacity of these workers. Despite the absence of accurate information on the unionisation rates of Crowdworkers in IG Metall, the membership of self-employed workers in the union may contribute to the revitalisation of associational power. Nevertheless, the professional status of these workers can make it difficult (e.g., absence of collective agreements) to mobilise institutional power, but some initiatives can offset this problem (code of conduct, ombuds office, etc.). No evidence was found of street demonstrations or cooperation with trade unions in the Global South; in contrast, initiatives such as Fair Crowd Work, Frankfurt Paper, FairTube etc. are successful examples of mobilising coalitional and discursive power. (02) In Portugal, the low qualification, the excess labour force and the precarious citizenship status of the Gigworkers may make it difficult to mobilise structural power, but the use of stoppage methods tends to compensate for these difficulties. The number of drivers from the TVDE sector affiliated to the STRUP structure is still incipient, however, new prospects of increasing the associational power through the affiliation of self-employed workers to the union are opening up. On the other hand, the creation of an intermediary element ("partner") by Law 45/2018 also makes it difficult to mobilise institutional power; whereas several initiatives by the trade union structure seek the revision of aspects of this Law. The absence of transnational trade union cooperation initiatives is offset by international recognition of the work carried out by the STRUP; Similarly, the incipient use of digital media is replaced by other forms of mobilising the discursive power (TVDE's charter of demands, meetings, street demonstrations). The main conclusion is that by being able to simultaneously assess the strengths and weaknesses of trade unionism, an analysis of trade union power resources is crucial for mapping how different industrial relations systems (such as Germany and Portugal) face the challenges of the digital era.

Keywords: Digitalisation. Power resources. Trade union politics. Germany. Portugal.