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9 May 2023

Brave New Europe

EU: Trade unions and platform worker collectives signed open letter urging labour ministers to support Platform Work Directive

"Gig Economy Project: Open letter – EU labour ministers: Will you work for us or for Uber?"

Trade unions and platform worker collectives across Europe have signed the following open letter addressed to ministers of labour of the EU member-states, calling for them to support a Platform Work Directive on the Council of the EU which ensures platform workers’ rights are protected.

Dear Ministers of Labour of the Member States of the European Union,

On 12th and 13th June, you will have to vote on the directive on the rights of platform workers. For us, platform workers, this directive is crucial. Our lives depend on it. The directive should determine our status (self-employed or employed), our relationship with the platforms and the transparency of their algorithms. 

We are riders or drivers. We chose these jobs naively believing in the myth of entrepreneurial freedom. We thought we would be free to set our prices, choose our hours and determine our working conditions. But the reality is quite different. We spend our days waiting for an order or an errand, as if held hostage without knowing when an errand will be allowed. If we were to refuse one, the platform would always allocate us less. 

Many of drivers like us work up to 13 hours a day, 7 days a week. Uber, Bolt, Heetch, these platforms use us as their slave. Dependent on their will, we are under their control, for fear of not being able to make ends meet. For 70 hours of work per week, we are numerous actually to earn only €1300 per month. €4.30 per hour. Is this a desirable, dignified income for anyone who wants to serve their fellow citizens? The platforms are never out of pocket. They charge us commissions of up to €40 per journey. How does the simple “connection” justify these commissions? How much wealth do these companies produce by simply bringing a customer and a driver together? As a result of the prices imposed by the platforms, more and more of us are no longer able to reimburse our car rentals or pay our insurance. Subjected to the platforms’ conditions, we can no longer make a decent living. [...]

Platforms are trying to convince you that what we need is a “social dialogue”, between us and them. This idea is really just a pretext to avoid the platforms having to assume their duties as employers. What we need are real rights, written in stone, not false discussions to get crumbs. 

Leaks in the media tell us that you are considering the discretionary right of Members not to apply the presumption of employment in the event of collective agreements or laws existing beforehand: our rights must have a common base throughout Europe and derogations are unacceptable. 

We know that many of you are tempted to support the ultra-liberal model of platforms. According to the European Commission, platforms have had more than a hundred meetings with the Directorate for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion during the period when the directive was being written. Trade unions and workers are chased away when they come to plead their case. This is not what your constituents expect from you. 

Labour Ministers of the EU Member States, our lives depend on your deliberations. It is your duty to recognise our subordination to platforms. We ask you, on the day of your council, to ensure that you support a directive that will allow unconditionally and without criteria: 

  • Transparent and safe use of algorithms; 
  • Respect for the rights of truly self-employed workers; 
  • The correct classification of workers who should be employees without having to go to court to for it; 
  • Fair competition between platforms and other companies. 

Finally, we demand that there be a presumption of employment, not subject to a series of conditions, such as compliance with 3 points out of seven. In our experience, these types of conditions lend themselves to circumventing the law by looking for shortcuts. 

In this sense, we support the proposal made by the European Parliament, in which there is a presumption of employment and it is the companies that have to claim that the workers are autonomous in each context, without there being a list of criteria that can be circumvented. 

Likewise, this presumption of employment must be governed by all member states. The door should not be opened for states to fail to comply with it, since that would mean opening the door for the powerful lobby to act in all states, one by one, and eliminate our rights here and there. 

We are at the end of the road. We are counting on you to take over. We will then know on the day of the council if you are riding for Uber or for the people. [...]