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20 Nov 2023


EU: Uber is allegedly lobbying against automatic classification of gig economy workers as employees under Platform Workers Directive; incl. company comments

"The EU Wants to Fix Gig Work. Uber Has Its Own Ideas"

The European Union’s Platform Work Directive was supposed to settle the employment status of gig workers. Years of lobbying later, workers are losing hope in the process.

[...] When EU officials first suggested new rules to regulate the gig economy two years ago, Haunold was hopeful that his job was about to change for the better. Negotiations between EU officials over what exactly those rules, known as the Platform Work Directive, should include have been beset by infighting. Trade unionists and labor activists say that’s because the debate has been heavily influenced by Uber.

“I'm very worried,” says Leïla Chaibi, a French member of the European Parliament representing the Left group, who attended the protest. “Uber is using all the tools they can use in order to destroy the directive.”

Uber spokesperson Casper Nixon did not directly address allegations the company is trying to sabotage the rules, which are still being finalized. “The Platform Work Directive as drafted might cost genuine independent [workers] their protections, jobs and flexibility,” he says. “Like any company, we regularly engage with European policymakers to share our experiences and position on regulation that impacts our business, drivers, couriers, and consumers.” [...]

The new EU platform work rules were intended to better balance the interests of platforms and workers by setting clear guidelines on the use of algorithmic managers, as well as the gig economy’s most contentious issue: workers’ employment status. Right now, millions of platform workers exist in a legal gray area, where it is unclear if they are employees, who are entitled to sick pay and pensions, or if they’re self-employed free agents, who are not. [...]

Nixon, Uber’s spokesperson, claims the company’s “engagement” with Macron was not followed by more favorable regulations. [...]

Both Van Sparrentak and Chaibi say that arguments put forward by Uber—particularly that a directive that automatically classifies platform workers as employees would threaten jobs—have been repeated by other MEPs and representatives of the European Council. [...]

What’s at stake for Uber with the new rules is the employment classification of its Uber drivers and UberEats couriers. “Classification is the entry point into the whole range of protections, everything from protection against unfair dismissal, through to sick leave, through to parental or maternity leave, through to discrimination protection,” says Jeremias Adams-Prassl, a law professor at the University of Oxford. “That's why you can also see the attraction of misclassifying workers. If you misclassify individuals, you can try to avoid all of those obligations.” [...]