28th Feb 2024


Decoding the EU deal on new rules for gig workers' conditions

  • 'Enforcement at national level will be crucial,' the European Trade Union Confederation said. 'Worryingly, the number of labour inspectors has been cut in half of member states over the last 15 years' (Photo: Unsplash)
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A 'historic deal' has been reached after a long night of negotiations between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission to improve working conditions on digital labour platforms, the lead rapporteur on the file, Elisabetta Gualmini (S&D), has said.

"For the first time we build up a framework of social rights for millions of workers in Europe who are amongst the most precarious, discontinuous, low-paid and who sometimes are wrongly classified," Gualmini told reporters on Wednesday (13 November).

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Two years after the EU executive's proposal, co-legislators have finally reached a provisional agreement on the so-called platform workers directive, which, if adopted, will ensure the correct employment status of 5.5 million workers and set the first rules for AI in the workplace.

"We have transparency and accountability for algorithms, we have better rights for the least protected workers in the world, and we have fair competition for platforms," Gualmini also said after the provisional text [still unknown in detail] was reached.

The bill is nevertheless less ambitious than MEPs foreseen at the beginning of the negotiations, when they were calling for a removal of the five criteria to establish the 'presumption of employment' by the gig platform.

"I would have liked this agreement to be more ambitious, but we held on, Uber has not made its law in Europe," MEP Leïla Chaibi (The Left) complained on Wednesday.

"As the final text emerges, we hope it delivers on these principles [improving working conditions and mandate protections for platform workers] while ensuring legal clarity," an Uber spokesperson said.

For the industry group Move EU, this is an "unbalanced agreement" that will create legal uncertainty for gig workers, as the indicators do not take into account the "nuanced realities" included in the council's general approach, they said.

How reclassification will work

The presumption of employment was the most complex aspect for all sides to agree on, and in the end they came up with a list of five indicators that would trigger this presumption.

These criteria, EUobserver has been told, would include cases where the platform sets levels of remuneration, monitors work performance, requires workers not to work for other companies, and where workers have no say over their working hours, appearance, behaviour or even refusal of tasks.

Under the text, a worker could be reclassified as an employee if two of these five indicators are met, although member states would be able to add more to the list — without changing the threshold of the two indicators.

This means that, in order to rebut the presumption, platforms such as Uber or Deliveroo will have to prove that there is no employment relationship with the workers and that they are genuinely self-employed.

If the platforms cannot or do not rebut the presumption, the gig worker will become an employee of the platform, thus acquiring some rights and benefits.

Once a worker has been reclassified, competent authorities will also have a duty to inspect the situation of their counterparts to identify other possible cases of bogus self-employment.

"Enforcement at national level will be crucial," the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said. "Worryingly, the number of labour inspectors has been cut in half of member states over the last 15 years".

As for the chapter on algorithmic management, the provisional text includes ensuring more human oversight and greater transparency for workers on how decisions are made and how some of their personal data is used.

The current text also bans the use of so-called 'robo-firing', the dismissal of workers by automated decision-making systems.

However, a total ban on processing any personal data of workers, even with their consent, is missing from the agreement.

The provisional text still needs to be formally adopted by the European parliament and the council. EU delegations will vote on it as early as next Wednesday (20 December), and France will be the most reluctant delegation to get on board — but not the only one, two sources told EUobserver.

Once the final text is given the green light, member states will have two years to transpose the directive into national law.

Crunch point in talks on EU gig workers' employment status

The 'presumption of employment' crux continues to hold up agreement on a final text to improve conditions for digital platform workers. On Thursday, the EU institutions will meet again on the technical aspects of the agreement.

EU gig workers compromise dubbed ‘a disaster for workers’

After several attempts to reach a common position, the EU Council could finally reach an agreement on the platform workers' rules at the upcoming ministerial meeting — but disagreements over the employment status of these workers remain sharp.

Platform workers could face 'robo-firing' under EU's AI rules

The platform workers directive, currently under negotiation, could create "ambiguity" on the processing of personal data by the platform and would also violate the GDPR by including the use of so-called robo-firing, research shows.

EU deal on new gig-workers rules unlikely before June elections

Another provisional agreement on improving working conditions for platform workers fall apart on Friday, as four member states decided not to support it — making the chances of a directive before the June European elections unlikely.


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