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Article

31 Oct 2022

Author:
Théo Bourgery-Gonse, EURACTIV.com

EU: Uber files whistleblower calls for ambitious law to protect workers at Parliament hearing on future platform workers directive

"Uber Files whistleblower wants ambitious EU law for the ‘powerless’", 26 Oct 2022

The hearing comes months into negotiations over a future platform workers directive, showing a stark split between MEPs over the adequate protection of platform workers while furthering innovation across the EU.

It follows the Uber Files scandal, which highlighted Uber’s lobbying practices at the EU level. Revelations from MacGann dating back to July 2022, published by The Guardian in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), laid bare how the company broke the law and secretly lobbied international governments to push through their ride-hailing solutions.

“We weaponised both drivers and consumers” in forcing Uber’s services through, even when they contravened local and national laws in place, MacGann explained. Uber even “paid academics to use skewed datasets. Earnings appeared as at or near minimum wage because the data did not take into account time spent in-between rides”, he added...

As such, he argued that an ambitious directive to protect workers effectively is necessary to shift the power back from the “powerful to the powerless”. A legal presumption of employment, alongside a reversal of the burden of proof onto digital platforms, is proving crucial so that “the financial burden is on those who can afford it”, according to the whistleblower...

Uber’s current EU policy lead Zuzana Púčiková [...] insisted that the company had changed in the past few years. “Everyone knows that Uber made mistakes in its early days […], and we certainly don’t defend them”, she said.

Unlike what used to be the case, “the Uber I know has robust and fixed compliant policies” that all must abide by, she explained, while a logic of “confrontation” has turned into one of “collaboration”.

Púčiková made clear Uber welcomed the EU directive’s goals to improve platform workers’ conditions “but also to caution against an approach that would reclassify them as workers”, which a majority do not appear to want. When necessary, “Uber openly engaged with policy-makers”, she added.

Former Uber driver turned activist Brahim Ben Ali, one of the other panellists that took to the stage following MacGann’s keynote, disregarded the directive as lacking the voice of “invisible” workers, for whom Uber working conditions are “more ferocious than ever”.

Negotiations continue over the directive at both the European Parliament and European Council. A vote is scheduled in the Employment Committee on 30 November.

Part of the following timelines

EU Commission launches draft law proposal on rights of platform & gig economy workers

Uber exploited violence against drivers, broke law & used investor money to ‘seduce’ drivers in its global expansion, alleges report