29th Sep 2023

Split EU Council finally agrees position on platform workers

  • The online platform sector employs around 28 million people in the EU, of whom an estimated 5.5 million would be reclassified as 'employees' under the new rules (Photo: Unsplash)
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Almost a year and a half after the EU Commission's proposal, European labour ministers on Monday (12 June) finally agreed their position on a directive for workers on platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo.

The long-awaited directive is a binding regulation for member states, that aims to control the algorithmic management of online platforms, increase transparency within the gig economy and, above all, guarantee fair and decent conditions for their workers.

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During the employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs council in Luxembourg, the EU-27 managed to reach an agreement on the text that they will now pursue in the so-called trialogues with the European Parliament and the commission.

22 countries voted in favour of the general approach and five abstained — including Spain, Greece, Germany, Estonia and Latvia.

In a joint statement, the governments of Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain acknowledged that they had facilitated this agreement in order to keep the legislative process on track, despite their "shared desire to improve the text".

The demands of these eight capitals were: legal presumption of worker status, but without restrictions or derogations that perpetuate the misclassification of platform workers and the precarious working conditions of the bogus self-employed.

The sector employs around 28 million people in the EU, of whom an estimated 5.5 million would be reclassified under the new rules.

This new legislation will help to determine the correct employment status of people working for digital platforms.

Under the position agreed by the council, these workers will be considered employees if they meet three out of seven criteria — including restrictions on their ability to refuse work or rules governing their appearance or behaviour.

In the joint statement of eight EU delegations, they note that since the beginning of the negotiations they have sought to achieve a directive "with the maximum degree of ambition" and say that, as currently drafted, the rebuttable legal presumption of employment is "less ambitious and less effective than the one proposed by the commission".

Meeting these criteria does not guarantee the right to employment, said ETUC confederal secretary Ludovic Voet.

"The position adopted by the council today would prevent workers from finally receiving their right to earn at least the minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay and access to social security," Voet said in statement.

For Anabel Díaz Calderón, Uber's head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, this provision would force certain platform workers to accept contracts they don't want.

"Instead of providing legal certainty and mandatory protections for genuine self-employed workers, both the council's and parliament's positions would likely force hundreds of thousands of people out of work and push a small minority to accept work contracts they don't want," she said in a statement after the council's position was approved.

Despite Monday's agreement in the council, the positions of all stakeholders on the employment status of these workers remain far apart.

Now negotiations will start with the parliament and the commission to reach a final text to be transposed into national law in the next two years.

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