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Lobbyists, Brussels and the EU's platform workers directive - should we be worried?

The Gig Economy Project revealed this week the lobbying influence of digital labour platforms over the European Commission's work on designing regulation on platform work. The Commission has been lobbied by one company, Bolt, 10 times on this specific issue in the past 12 months.

Bolt are proud that they can get the ear of Commissioner Nicolas Schmit and his cabinet on a regular basis. The company's regulation and public policy head, Dominick Moxon-Tritsch, happily re-tweeted GEP's article to highlight their lobbying fire-power. 

The question for the rest of us - and platform workers in particular - is: should we have any trust in a system where platform companies are so brazen about their ability to buy influence with unelected bureaucrats, who have the power to design regulations which could shape labour rights in the gig economy for decades to come?

A draft Directive is due to be published by the Commission before the end of the year. If it does not include an unambiguous statement of a presumption of an employment relationship between platform worker and platform, and a burden of proof on the platform company to prove otherwise, we will know that corporate power has won out once again over democracy in Brussels. Any talk of 'wage portage', 'third status' or 'not a one-size-fits-all solution' will be a sure sign that Moxon-Tritsch and co have Nicolas Schmit, EU jobs and social rights Commissioner, in their pocket.

Whatever the outcome of the Directive, in the long-run platform workers will need to build strong industrial power if they are ever going to attain reliable political influence. Wasn't it ever thus?

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • BARCELONA GLOVO STRIKE POSTPONED: The second wave of the 'dark supermarket' riders strike in Barcelona has been postponed after Glovo told the union, CCOO, they were now willing to open negotiations. The company had previously refused negotiations and made a failed bid to break last weekend's three days of strike action by trying to use 'autonomous' riders as strike breakers. The striking riders, who are subcontracted, have demanded to be hired directly on better terms & conditions. Read GEP's full report on the strike postponement here.
  • 'LAS KELLYS' TO SET-UP APP FOR FAIR WORK IN HOTELS: The Spanish chambermaids' union 'Las Kellys' has raised over €80,000 in donations to set-up an app which will inform travellers whether the hotel they are staying in pays their staff a decent wage and respects their labour rights. To get certified on the app, hotels must respect the national agreement on pay and conditions'. The union tried and failed to convince travel platforms' booking.com and TripAdvisor to add workers' rights criteria to their rating system. Read more here and to donate to the initiative, click here.
  • UBER SELLS STAKE IN RUSSIAN BUSINESS: Private hire giant Uber is selling its shares in several joint-ventures with Russian firm Yandex for $1 billion. Yandex is buying out Uber's 33.5% stake in its food delivery, groceries delivery and logistics delivery services. Yandex is attempting to become a Chinese-style 'super-app' covering multiple services. Uber's sell-off is part of CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's efforts to make the company profitable for the first time. Read more here.
  • COACHHUB RAISES $80 MILLION: A Berlin platform for coaches has raised $80 million in venture capital funding to expand internationally. CoachHub offers companies coaching programmes for their employees, matching them with more than 2,5000 coaches from 70 countries registered on the platform. The number of professional coaches is reported to have grown by 35% since 2015.
  • #SHAMEONOCADO CAMPAIGN CONTINUES: The IWGB union in the UK are continuing to press Ocado, the online retailer, to pay its 'Ocado Zoom' rapid delivery workers, who are outsourced, at least the minimum wage. Local MP Rupa Haq met Ocado riders outside their workplace this week to hear about their issues directly. The IWGB says it plans to escalate its campaign next week if Ocado continue to ignore their demands. A strike hardship fund has been launched.
  • ELITE TAXI PLAN SEPTEMBER MOBILISATIONS: Elite Taxi Barcelona, the taxi union which has managed to keep Uber out of the city, has announced that it is planning a series of mobilisations in September at airport terminals, train and bus stations to resist "unprecedented attacks" by private hire platforms. Elite Taxi is also fighting five court battles with Uber and other platforms, which they are seeking donations to fund
  • LYON RIDERS RESIST DEACTIVATIONS: Uber Eats riders in the French city of Lyon protested on Tuesday [31 August] against unfair deactivations from the app. The mobilisation, which was organised by the CGT union, demanded "the reinstatement of the delivery drivers blocked by the platform...for spurious reasons". CGT say the platform does not justify it's de-activations, and use blocking riders from the app to discipline the entire workforce. 

On GEP this week

From around the web

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This new study uses "data from a fully remote labour market - an online labour platform - to show that remote work is polarised along three dimensions".

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Writing in Red Pepper, Bikrum Gill finds that new platforms and data analytics are helping big agribusiness take over Indian agriculture.

What's coming up?

- France's union for private hire drivers, the Intersyndicale Nationale VTC (INV), will be holding a protest in Paris on Monday 6th September at 1pm, 5 Rue Scharlot, against Uber's exploitative practises. Full details and INV's manifesto here.

- Berlin riders at Gorillas app are taking the company to court to end the practise of fixed-term contracts at the German food delivery company. They have their first hearings in Berlin on Monday September 6th and Thursday September 9th and are calling on fellow workers to come along and show solidarity. Full details here

- 'A new Bretton Woods for data'? Elizabeth Denham CBE, UK Information Commissioner and Global Privacy Assembly chair, will speak on this topic at the Oxford Internet Institute event next Thursday, 3pm UK time. Click here for details and to register.

- The latest 're-shaping work' virtual conference will take place on 10th September. Click here for details and to register.

- WageIndicator Foundation will host a virtual conference on 24th September exploring migration and telemigration in the gig economy. Click here for the agenda and to register.

Know of more events or actions that we should be highlighting? Let us know at [email protected].

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Get in touch

The Gig Economy Project is a media network for gig workers and we welcome contributions from workers, writers, academics, activists - anyone who wants to stand up for gig workers' rights. 

If you would like to write for the site, discuss arranging an interview with GEP, or simply have information about developments in the gig economy in Europe you think we should be aware of, get in touch. 

Contact project co-ordinator Ben Wray at [email protected] or send a direct message to the Twitter @project_gig.

And if you like the Gig Economy Project weekly newsletter, why not send the link to subscribe to a friend or colleague?

The Gig Economy Project is a Brave New Europe production. If you want to help GEP expand our work, visit BraveNewEurope.com to make a donation.

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