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The Financial Times and Bloomberg appear to be the chosen media for leaks about the European Commission's platform work directive, which is set to be announced next Wednesday [8 December] and will be of major significance for the regulation of platform work in every EU member state. The leaks suggest digital labour platforms and their lobbyists are panicking, as are shareholders: Deliveroo's share price had fallen 23% and Delivery Hero (the German multinational which owns) was down almost 13% from Monday to Friday [3 December].

Bloomberg finds that the Commission is proposing that "any worker whose job is controlled by a digital platform can presume that they are an employee regardless of what they are called in their contract. Digital platforms would have the legal obligation to prove that the worker isn’t an employee."

They add: "The rules would affect operations that meet two of five criteria: determining pay for workers, setting appearance and conduct standards, supervising the quality of work, restricting the ability to accept or refuse tasks, or limiting the ability to build a client base."

That criteria would definitely include all those working for the major food delivery and ridehail platforms operating in the EU. According to Bloomberg, the EU estimates that the additional costs of such an arrangement, which they believe would be applicable for as many as 4.1 million workers, to the platforms would be €4.5 billion, as they would have to pay social security, pensions, minimum wage, etc. It's estimated that 3.8 million workers who work via platforms would still be considered self-employed, presumably these are workers who operate solely on 'the cloud', such as translators using platforms like 'Upwork', who can negotiate their pay. 

The FT's report was more restrained on key details, and stated that "the criteria to classify workers as employees will be defined by member states", but was clear that the Commission is proposing that platform workers "should enjoy the same rights as staff in more secure forms of employment", and highlighted the unhappiness of the platform lobby, which has intensified its lobbying "to push-back against the Commission's proposals". A platform lobby sponsored report was published two weeks ago warning 250,000 European food delivery couriers could quit if they are made employees. Presumably this is the sort of nonsense 'research' being thrust into the hands of EU Commissioners and their staff this week by lobbyists fearing they might, for once, have lost.

Both Bloomberg and the FT were clear that the drafts they had seen were not final and subject to change, so we will all find out how effective the lobbyist push-back proved to be next week. Suffice to say, 8 December will be an important day in the development of the gig economy in Europe. The Gig Economy Project will be providing in-depth coverage of the EU Commission's proposal and bringing all the reaction to it on the BRAVE NEW EUROPE website and via Twitter.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator


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Gig Economy news round-up

  • GORILLAS' WORKERS VOTE FOR WORKS' COUNCIL: Workers at the Berlin-based food delivery company Gorillas have voted to establish a Works' Council, a body which gives workers official representation in the company. The vote took place last week after a Berlin Labour court rejected the company's attempts to prevent it from going ahead. The company had criticised the procedure for appointing the election committee. 19 works' councillors now represent the interests of the 'riders' and 'pickers' that make-up the company's workforce. Hundreds of Gorillas workers in Berlin were fired in October for wild cat striking. Read more here
  • ITALIAN PROSECUTORS DELIVER IMPROVEMENTS IN WORKING CONDITIONS FOR 20,000 RIDERS: The Italian Judiciary have announced that 20,000 food delivery couriers have had their working conditions improved in an agreement with four major food delivery firms. The agreement means the workers receive free medical check-ups, safety equipment, personal protection devices and training in security. The prosecutors had threatened to sue Foodinho (Glovo), Uber Eats Italy, Just Eat Italy and Deliveroo Italy for a combined €733 million for hiring the riders on a self-employed basis. The agreement means the companies instead pay a fine of only €15,700 each. Read more here
  • 'JOB&TALENT' RAISE $500 MILLION: The Madrid-based platform for finding temporary work, Job & Talent, has raised €500 million in a new venture capital funding round, making it Spain's third tech 'unicorn', with a valuation of $2.35 billion. The platform is active in six European countries and claims to have found work for 100,000 people in the first nine months of 2021. The company has been a sub-contractor in the food delivery sector, such as at the e-retailer Ocado in the UK, where delivery workers have protested and been on strike to demand to be employed in-house. Read more here.
  • SPANISH RIDEHAIL PLATFORM SAYS SUPPLY-CHAIN CRISIS IS HURTING THE SECTOR: The supply-chain crisis which is affecting the global economy is having a damaging impact on the private hire car sector due to the lack of new cars being produced due to a chip shortage, which is having a knock-on effect on the number of private hire cars on the road, according to Daniel Gorges, a Bolt director in Spain. He described it as "quite a big bottleneck", adding that "this is a market that is limited by supply". Also, fewer drivers are willing to drive for a living due to the rising cost of fuel, cutting into take-home pay. Read more here.
  • FAIRWORK DIRECTOR ACCUSES THINK-TANK OF 'PROPAGANDA' FOR DELIVEROO: The director of the FairWork Foundation, which rates gig economy platforms to asses the quality of working conditions they provide, has slammed a report by the Social Market Foundation think-tank on the food delivery sector in the UK, which was paid for by food delivery company Deliveroo. Mark Graham, who is also a professor at the University of Oxford, said it was "unsurprising that a study funded by Deliveroo, aimed at policy makers, reveals nothing at all that conflicts with Deliveroo’s public policy objectives. This slick policy propaganda, dressed up as research, offers a masterclass in how to avoid asking difficult questions." The report found that riders were happy in their job, favour being self-employed and consider Deliveroo a long-term job option. Read more here.
  • UK STUDY: MOST GIG WORKERS HAVE BEEN INJURED AT WORK AND TOOK UNPAID TIME OFF: A study of 1,000 gig economy workers in the UK found that 59% have been injured while at work and 85% of those were unable to work for an average of five weeks. Sixty per cent of those who took time off say it was unpaid, with more than one in ten refusing to take time off even when they know they should have. The average gig economy worker only has savings to last five weeks, according to the study, commissioned via OnePoll. Read more here.

Have we missed important news on the gig economy in Europe this week? E-mail Ben at [email protected] to help us improve our news round-up.

On GEP this week

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Open letter to EU Commission: Don't water down plans to regulate platform work

Ministers from Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy apply pressure onto EU Commission a week before the platform work directive legislation is to be announced.

From around the web

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'Collective resistance and organisational creativity amongst Europes platform workers: a new power in the labour movement?'

A chapter from the book 'Work and Labour Relations in Global Capitalism' by Kurt Vandaele of the European Trade Union Institute.

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Josh Gabert-Doyon reviews Phil Jones' new book 'Work without the Worker' in 'The Baffler'.

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Europe went bananas for Gorillas. Then its workers rose up.

Morgan Meaker writes in 'Wired' about industrial relations at the Berlin-based food delivery company Gorillas.

What's coming up?

- The European Commission will announce its legislative proposal for improving the conditions of platform workers on 8th of December.

- The European Trade Union Confederation will host a discussion on the platform work directive on the 9th of December, 3-4pm CET. Click here for details.

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

Get Involved

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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