The European Parliament has fought off platform industry attempts to weaken a proposed law giving their workers decent rights.
A vote last week in favour of keeping a strong presumption of employment in the Platform Work Directive by the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee has been whole-heartedly welcomed by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
“There has been a tussle between progressive lawmakers and the platform lobby over the wording of this directive,” said Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF. “There should be no wriggle room to allow platforms to dodge their responsibilities as employers — that’s what they’ve been lobbying for and I’m pleased to say the European Parliament’s Employment Committee has stopped it from happening.
“We have been warning that this is the platforms’ tactic and we owe a debt of thanks to MEPs for resisting this pressure.”
Fighting for platform worker rights
Millions of workers, including ride-hail drivers and food delivery riders, have been misclassified as self-employed workers and denied basic human rights including health and safety protections, pensions and the right to collective bargaining. The proposed EU Directive will stop this abuse by introducing a presumption that gig-economy workers are employees, with full legal protections.
“The European Parliament text is a good step forward for platform workers. It contains a strong presumption of employment relationship, a role for collective bargaining and transparency over algorithmic management. We have strong reservations over the specific reference to the taxi sector but overall, the text provides a strong mandate going into negotiations with the Council and Commission,” said Livia Spera, General Secretary of European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).
But there is a complex process involving the EU Council, the European Commission, the European Parliament and other bodies. At every stage, platform companies have been lobbying hard for ways to keep workers under the yoke, most recently by introducing a more general description that would have allowed them to weasel out of the requirement to treat their workers as employees. This has failed, first at the Council, and now in the European Parliament thanks to the tireless efforts of pro-worker politicians .
The important presumption of employment will stay, with employers only able to challenge it if they can prove they do not have control over workers. This will give gig-economy workers the most robust level of protection.
“The text adopted gives the European Parliament a strong and ambitious mandate going into trialogue with the Council and Commission, with excellent protections in place for platform workers,” said Cotton. “This is the law we need for giving workers the rights they deserve.”
A workers’ say in the use of algorithms
Amendments adopted by the committee also build on the hugely important provisions tackling algorithmic management in the sector. Platform workers will be entitled to receive greater information about algorithms and will have more of a say in how they’re used. The human-in-command approach to decision-making around penalties and terminations is firmly embedded in the draft. Other worker protections include provisions against abusive subcontracting by platforms.
“All workers should be treated the same, with the same fundamental rights,” said Cotton. “We very much welcome this vote but warn against singling out any particular sector for exemption or clarification in the directive — such as the case for taxi dispatch services.
“The EU institutions must continue to work together to secure a law that stamps out workers’ exploitation for profit. In doing so, they will be pioneers in protecting platform workers — a model for the rest of the world.”
Once the directive is final, it will be binding on all 27 EU member states.