24th Mar 2023

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

  • The Left MEPs gathered outside parliament on Wednesday. The EU Commission's new directive could classify 1.7 to 4.1 million workers as 'employees' (Photo: Paula Soler)
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MEPs from The Left party and representatives of the La Maison des Livreurs [House of Deliveries] collective, plus other activists, delivery workers and allies, gathered in front of the European Parliament on Wednesday (1 February) to defend the rights of digital platform workers.

The call to action, entitled "Time to Deliver (rights)", came one day before the outcome of the votes that will determine the European Parliament's position on the directive proposed by the EU Commission in December 2021.

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"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," Leïla Chaibi (The Left), one of the leading MEPs on the report, told EUobserver during the meeting between politicians and workers.

The strength of the current proposal is to establish a 'presumption of employment' without having to meet certain criteria (as initially recommended by the commission), i.e. so delivery drivers on platforms such as Uber or Deliveroo should be considered employees, not self-employed. And the burden of proving otherwise should be on the platform, not on the worker.

This new classification, which the commission estimates to cover between 1.7 and 4.1 million workers, would give these people access to basic rights such as sick pay, parental leave or holiday pay.

"We do not want every platform worker to be an employee," stressed Martin Williams, from La Maison des Livreurs, a meeting place for autonomous collectives and different unions to reinvent the workers' struggle, to EUobserver.

There are platform workers who want to maintain their self-employed status, but are currently not treated as such by their companies. "We want a strong directive so they can be real self-employed," he added.

That was echoed by Ahmed Addou, a platform worker: "Gig workers want to be self-employed and have their independence respected. Not to have an employer watching from behind and paying them per task".

The vote was scheduled a fortnight ago, but was postponed until Thursday (2 February), as MEPs were divided. If it does not get enough votes to proceed with negotiations with the Council, the text will have to be reconsidered in the parliament's employment committee.

Chaibi hopes that parliament's position will be the same as the one already approved by the employment committee, but has doubts about the votes of the MEPs in the Renew Europe group.

She says this agreement is pro-worker, but also in favour of fair competition between companies.

"Digital labour companies operate in the same environment as other employers. They should be subject to the same rules", representatives of the European Confederation of Industrial and Service Cooperatives (CECOP) told this media outlet a few weeks ago.

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