The EU Commission has today published its initiative to improve the working conditions of people working through digital labour platforms. UNI Europa welcomed the inclusion of key trade union demands. Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa, said the following in reaction:
“We welcome this proposal by the European Commission. The clarity its provisions bring is badly needed across several sectors where legal uncertainty and the abuse of legal loopholes is creating a race to the bottom and a growing precariat in the European Union.
“Vital points of the proposal are the presumption of employment for people working through platforms as well as the reversal of the burden of proof. Until now, workers who have been forced into bogus self-employment have had to take lengthy and expensive court action on a case-by-case basis to claw back rights that are rightfully theirs. Workers must be assumed to be employees and if they are not, it should be up to the corporations to prove it, so this is a vital point of the initiative. Let me add that this is also a positive development for employers: it enhances legal certainty, which is better than relying on individual court cases and it provides more of a level-playing field for all businesses, online or offline.
“We welcome that it is not sector specific, as platform work is a reality in several sectors, and it is expanding. For UNI Europa this is a key concern as the services economy is being rapidly targeted by these companies: most platforms who made a name and a size in food delivery are going to what it is called now q-commerce (quick commerce), which is the almost instant delivery of supermarkets and in some cases retail. For the commerce sector, this is a game changer and we hope that this legislative initiative will, through social dialogue, channel the change of the sector in a constructive way.
“There are also some important proposals impacting algorithmic management. We have seen dramatic consequences of algorithms being given free reign. Ensuring oversight and ways of holding management accountable to the decisions of the algorithms they use is vital. The provisions foresee that workers and representatives will have to be informed about how these algorithms operate, the best way to ensure good working conditions and create resilience in time of crisis is collective bargaining. Information and consultation as well as the role of collective bargaining outlined would be a major improvement.
“We have seen the appalling conditions under which many of the workers in the platform economy must work. Now we hope that this initiative paves the way to bring union protection to the workers in these companies and end the race-to-the-bottom. As workers’ unions, we invite platform companies to engage in dialogue with a view to anticipating the legislation and initiating an effective implementation of these principles. We want to lay the foundation of positive industrial relations with collective bargaining at their core, in line with the EU’s social model.”
This is the first step in the EU’s legislative process.