Saturday

24th Feb 2024

Improving conditions for gig workers splits MEPs

  • EU Commission estimates suggest that between 1.7 and 4.1 million workers are currently misclassified as 'self-employed' (Photo: The Left)
Listen to article

Self-employed or employed? This question is at the heart of the negotiations of the proposal for an EU directive on improving the conditions of platform workers.

Home-delivery riders, or Uber-style app drivers are some of those who compose a sector estimated by the EU Commission to employ more than 28 million people. The number has been growing for years, and is expected to keep rising, reaching 43 million workers in the next two years.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The sector boomed to a record nearly €14bn in profits in 2020, but European legislation is still a step behind: the labour rights of these workers are not covered by the existing regulations.

Under pressure to improve their conditions, the commission presented a proposal for a directive at the end of 2021.

In December, the council failed to reach an agreement on its position, so it remains divided between those who advocate a pro-worker directive, and those who do not. And the European Parliament, the third axis in this relationship, was supposed to vote this Thursday (19 January) whether the report of the employment committee voted upon last month will be the institution's position in the trilogue negotiation.

However, MEPs are divided, and the text could be rejected in a plenary vote that has now been postponed for two weeks (until 2 February), after 71 MEPs who disagreed with the committee report wanted more time to insert amendments before the trilogues started.

That is unusual considering it was voted for by a large majority in the committee itself, MEP Alicia Homs pointed out on Wednesday.

The S&D MEP pointed out this has only happened with seven of 82 plenary mandates during this legislature, and added: "One cannot help but wonder what is behind the deliberate delay of some negotiations on a directive that aims to ban bogus self-employment on platforms."

For the general secretary at the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Ludovic Voet, it is a simpler matter. "Do MEPs want working people to have fair and decent employment, or do they want fake self-employment to become even more widespread?," he said on Tuesday .

The classification crux

At the heart of the changes this proposal, binding for all member states, would entail, is the reclassification of the workers of these platforms. EU Commission estimates suggest that, currently, between 1.7 and 4.1 million workers are misclassified as self-employed, although ETUC believes there could be a higher number.

"Workers who are forced to accept tasks or cannot set their own price are not actually self-employed", the European Confederation of Industrial and Service Cooperatives (CECOP) told EUobserver. CECOP includes cooperatives compliant with the regulations, which they complain is unfair competition.

Given the reluctance of those who oppose the inclusion of the 'presumption of employment' in the report (ie, which implies that platform workers will be platform employees unless the platform can prove otherwise), reclassifying them does not imply taking away the "flexibility" of these workers, CECOP explained.

"Misclassification of workers happens when platforms force them to work as self-employed and to obey strict guidelines determined by the platform", CECOP representatives pointed out, stressing both the parliament text and the commission's initial proposal.

BusinessEurope, the employers' organisation, however, is opposed to this modification, which they label as an "irresponsible solution" leaving it to individual platform workers to trigger the presumption, without giving time they deemed adequate for a response.

The employers' representatives declined to comment to EUobserver beyond its official statement sent to the EU institutions.

"Platform work is, ultimately, work", said a joint letter in October from trade unions, cooperative enterprises, and non-governmental organisations to the European institutions in the hope of an effective directive.

Several months later, they continue to argue that achieving the correct legal status for each worker is essential for them to have access to minimum working conditions, such as enjoying social protection, accident cover, or the right to vacation days without penalising the worker's rating.

The directive seeks not only to recognise the correct legal status of these workers, but also to protect them from algorithmic control and the use of subcontractors to continue poor working conditions.

"We strongly support the requirements of transparency of information concerning the use of automated monitoring and decision-making systems," SOLIDAR & SOLIDAR Foundation, a network of over 50 European civil society organisations, told this media. Thus, they are calling on the EU and its national governments to better develop skills and knowledge to understand how these algorithms and software work, in order to build "a more democratically organised platform economy".

"This is a first crucial step towards protecting all workers against the abuse of algorithms. Automated decision-making systems cannot be black boxes," said Elisabetta Gualmini, the leading MEP, in December.

Online platforms need regulating, Jourova warns

The EU commission vice-president pledged to tackle disinformation by regulating platforms and cleaning up online political advertising rules. She also pointed to Russia and China as wanting to undermine European democracy.

Labour shortage prompts EU appeal for non-EU workers

The European Commission is hoping to mitigate regional and industry-specific labour shortages with the launch of a new mechanism to facilitate the arrival of workers from third countries.

Brussels unveils rules for Uber, Deliveroo, and other gig workers

The European Commission has unveiled a proposal aimed at improving employment conditions for gig workers, such as Uber drivers or Deliveroo riders. But industry players claim new rules would lead to the loss of thousands of jobs in the EU.

Opinion

Gig economy workers need EU to end digital modern-day slavery

On Wednesday, the European Parliament is to adopt a report calling on the EU Commission to propose laws to better protect platform workers. The S&D want to ensure platform workers can be considered employees, with full social and worker's rights.

MEPs rally ahead of vote for gig-economy workers' rights

"We have to make the voice of workers heard and if there is a directive on their working conditions, it has to be in favour of the workers, not the platforms," said one of the leading MEPs of the report.

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.

Opinion

EU plan to let 17-year olds drive trucks is crazy

It's an astonishing proposition rooted in political interest rather than facts, with potentially dire consequences for all road users — especially for people who walk and cycle, warns the European Cycling Federation.

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.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us