European Commission aims to tackle working status of platform workers

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A delivery worker rides in Barcelona Copyright LLUIS GENE/AFP
By Bryan Carter
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The Commission aims to make things clearer for the EU's 24 million gig workers. The digital platform economy is now worth an estimated €14 billion.


The European Commission has started consulting labour unions and employers on the working status of platform workers, in a bid to improve their conditions.

A range of proposals related to the employment status, collective representation and algorithmic management are being looked at by the Commission, as it aims to make things clearer for the 24 million EU gig workers, who work in jobs like taxi driving and food delivery.

Accusations against tech companies — their employers — range from underpay to a lack of proper social protection and being used as part of a "disposable labour force".

Nicolas Schmit, the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights told Euronews that more needs to be done for platform workers.

"There is a need for action because, well, this is an important part of our economy, a growing part of our economy. And this online economy cannot just develop outside the normal rules and the normal protections which have been established for the normal economy," Schmit said.

"It's a difficult issue because we have to find the right balance between the flexibility this kind of business model needs and the adequate protection people working for this sector are entitled to."

For trade unions, EU action is necessary to ensure fair and decent working conditions for platform workers, as well as their right to organize and bargain collectively.

They call on the commission to tackle bogus self-employment, and to presume that they are employees until proven otherwise.

"If we see that really an algorithm is organising the work, that a worker cannot put the rates himself, the tariffs himself, that he has no autonomy in doing the task, there's enough evidence that he's not a self-employed," Ludovic Voet, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation told Euronews.

"There's enough evidence that the platform organised actually the working relationship. So that's why we think really we have to take the starting point, that they are employees until it's proven otherwise."

The employers, on the other hand, believe it should be up to member states to define the relationship between the online platforms and the workers.

Maxime Cerutti, Social affairs director at Business Europe which represents some of the companies involved, says that the situation for platform workers in each country is different.

"In the European debate we should be careful not to overstep on something that member states are better able to do themselves," Cerutti told Euronews.

"The reality is different across Europe. You have countries with a very binary approach to employment and self-employment, which are defined in the Member states, but it is also the case that you have intermediary categories in a number of countries and so we need to respect this diversity of Member states solutions".

According to the Commission, the digital platform economy has grown almost five-fold in the last 5 years and is now worth an estimated €14 billion.

If the social partners choose not to negotiate together on the labour issue, the Commission says it will come up with a legislative proposal by the end of the year.

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