EU should give gig workers same rights as permanent staff

Commission launches consultation on employment rights

The move comes days after a landmark ruling against Uber by the UK supreme court, which said the ride hailing app’s employees were workers rather than being self-employed. Photograph: iStock

The move comes days after a landmark ruling against Uber by the UK supreme court, which said the ride hailing app’s employees were workers rather than being self-employed. Photograph: iStock

 

The European Commission has launched a consultation on whether gig workers should be given the same employment rights as those of staff in more secure forms of employment, including the ability to bargain for wages and working conditions as part of a collective.

The move comes days after a landmark ruling against Uber by the UK supreme court, which said the ride hailing app’s employees were workers rather than being self-employed. It was just the latest in a series of legal decisions on the responsibilities that platform companies should bear towards their workers; last year a court in Spain ruled that workers for food delivery app Glovo were employees.

Announcing the consultation on Wednesday, the executive body of the EU singled out a number of areas in which it said an improvement in workers’ rights was needed, including the employment status of gig workers, their ability to engage in collective bargaining and their access to social benefits.

The consultation will last six weeks and is the start of a process which is likely to end later this year with legislative proposals, according to Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice-president in charge of digital. The second part of the consultation will consider how to enact the possible new laws.

Ms Vestager said the pandemic had boosted platforms’ business models and made it even more imperative to examine their working conditions.

“Across Europe people who work with platforms risk [being] left without income and they are not always eligible for national support measures during lockdowns,” she said. “Even those who have work ... sometimes have poor working conditions with long [hours] or little or no social protection should they fall ill, no pension scheme [and] no access to training or skills development.”

Grey area

The consultation will explore whether platform workers should be treated in the same way as more securely employed staff, said Nicolas Schmit, the EU’s commissioner for jobs and social rights.

“Are the workers of the platforms self-employed or normal employees? This is a crucial question, but not an easy one,” he said. “We don’t have just one solution. We are in some kind of a grey area and there is a need for clarification.”

Mr Schmit said the EU’s goal was that “we want that platform workers have access to the same rights as all other workers”, regardless of their status.

Ms Vestager said: “Platform work is here to stay and it’s important [that] we can secure sustainable models for this type of work.”

In response to the consultation launch, Uber said it welcomed the bid “to improve the conditions of platform work”.

“Any legislative initiative should be grounded in what platform workers value most - flexibility and control over their work, transparent and fair earnings, access to benefits and protections and meaningful representation,” Uber said. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021