EU paves the way for collective bargaining for solo self-employed

EU paves the way for collective bargaining for solo self-employed

UNI Europa welcomes the EU Commission’s move to protect the right of solo self-employed workers to bargain collectively for fair wages and working conditions. The Commission has today published guidelines on the application of EU competition law that removes legal barriers to collective bargaining for solo self-employed workers.

There are approximately 24 million people who work as solo self-employed in the EU. Until now, contested interpretations of EU competition law have resulted in many of these being excluded from collective bargaining. This has resulted in a two-tier workforce, whereby employment standards in various industries could be circumvented, thus incentivizing employers to seek to outsource to solo self-employed workers on lesser conditions.

Today’s clarification safeguards the fundamental right of collective bargaining for genuine self-employed workers. Together with affiliated national trade unions and the ETUC, UNI Europa has been advocating for this important change.

“The Commission’s clarification paves the way for collective bargaining. Our mandate as a trade union is strengthened. The times when contracting authorities could avoid negotiations by referring to EU competition law are over,” said Frank Werneke, chair of the German union ver.di.

“This is a vital step to take people’s dignity out of the realm of competition. When working people’s pay and conditions are seen only as a budget line to squeeze and gain a competitive advantage, it drives a race to the bottom. Strong collective bargaining is the solution. Together, working people can negotiate to secure a common floor of dignity for all,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.  

 

With the guidelines, the Commission clarifies that solo self-employed workers that work side by side employees can negotiate agreements or can be integrated in existing collective agreements. This is a major step for workers in audio-visual production, for example, where it is common that employees and solo self-employed production work side by side. Further, the guidelines acknowledge the need to protect economically dependent self-employed workers.

UNI Europa also welcomes the commitment by the European Commission not to interfere with national and EU legislation that provide for collective bargaining of solo self-employed workers in specific sectors or for specific categories such as cultural and creative workers.  

This is an important step forward for genuine self-employed workers operating across all services sectors. While it provides a legal basis for “gig” economy workers to bargain collectively for their pay and conditions, UNI Europa remains determined in its drive to stamp out bogus self-employment practices in Europe.

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