Labour laws ‘a must’ for smartphone apps 


Labour rights advocates and academics have called for improved protection of people who make a living through smartphone apps.

This includes services such as ride-hailing applications that bring together customers and private car owners. So far, the law has been unclear about who the employers of service providers are who deprive employees of the welfare protection they deserve, according to Akkanat Wanthanasombat, a researcher at the institute for fair economy and labour.

He said some operators, which are not recognised by law, set their own rules for the service providers they have contracted and take a cut from the providers’ earnings. However, the app owners do not invest in training the service providers or provide them with equipment and vehicles used in the trade.

Mr Akkanat pointed out that similar service providers, who don’t rely on the applications but are strictly regulated by the state, think application-based rivals are stealing their jobs.

The researcher said that some countries in Europe are studying the effects of this platform-driven economy on the workforce and fairness of employment.

Some governments have not decided whether service providers are employees of the app owners or if they are independent workers.

In some other countries, laws are being reviewed to confirm the employment status of service providers. Many believe application owners must provide them with welfare offers, according to Mr Akkanat.

However, in Thailand, more needs to be done in devising measures to care for the service providers dependence on applications. For example, the profit-sharing between application owners and the service providers must be adjusted to address unfair employment.

Also, the state must step in and enforce labour law to ensure both the service providers receive proper job security and the customers are offered safety when they use the service, Mr Akkanat said.

“The government must draw a line to curb greedy application operators,” he said.

The service providers have no channels through which they could voice their complaints about unfair working conditions. They have not banded together to form a union or a pressure group to negotiate terms of employment with the application operators.

Mr Akkanat spoke at a forum titled “Digital Economy And Labour: The Old Crisis Or New Opportunities?” organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Bangkok.