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13th Apr 2024

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

  • Germany, France, Greece, and Estonia formed a blocking minority, preventing the EU Belgian presidency from reaching a qualified majority to agree on a final text (Photo: Unsplash)
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No EU deal on platform work directive was reached on Friday (16 February), as four member states decided not to support the latest agreement to improve conditions for gig workers in Europe — making the chances of a directive before the elections unlikely.

Germany, France, Greece, and Estonia formed a blocking minority, preventing the EU Belgian presidency from reaching a qualified majority to agree on a final text for platform workers.

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France could not support the text, while Greece, Germany, and Estonia decided to abstain from the vote, EUobserver was able to confirm.

"They chose big platforms' economic interests over European citizens, the European social model and the future of work," the S&D group in the parliament account, to which the rapporteur of this file belongs, posted on social media immediately after the deal fell apart.

The parliament had already lowered its expectations for this directive (making the text much less ambitious than at the beginning of negotiations) in order to reach an agreement during this mandate.

However, this was not enough for these four countries, some of which asked for more time to study the proposed text, first unveiled by the European Commission back in December 2021.

The situation is similar to that under the Spanish EU Council presidency, when a first provisional agreement was reached to reclassify some 5.5 million workers from self-employed to 'employees', greatly enhancing their rights and social protections, only to fall apart at the Council level over a week later.

Indeed, although Spain voted in favour of this provisional agreement, it issued a statement making clear that some provisions of the text "do not fully respond to what we understand should have been the content of this directive".

As an example, Madrid mentions the central element of the directive, the presumption of employment, describing it as weak and unambitious and contrary to what was defended by the Spanish delegation.

Trade unions also reacted to the new failure to reach a final agreement that could give better working conditions to an estimate of 28 million platform workers.

"This shows that implementing the presumption of employment relationship and the reversal of burden of proof at national level is more urgent than ever," confederal secretary at the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Luvoci Voet stressed in a statement.

The Belgian presidency of the EU quickly announced on X (formerly Twitter) that the EU ambassadors had failed to reach a qualified majority on Friday afternoon.

"We believe that this directive, aiming to be an important step forward for this workforce, has come a long way," the Belgians posted on their social media channels.

"We will now consider the next steps," they added — although there is unlikely to be enough time to renegotiate a new text before the upcoming EU elections.

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.

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