One of the most curious innovations of platform capitalist governance thus far was passed by the French Senate and Assembly this week. French parliamentarians gave the green light to the government's law for a "social dialogue" process between platforms and 'independent' gig workers, mediated by the French Government.
The social dialogue process will work like this. In February, unions and associations will put themselves forward to be representatives of the gig workers. An election will take place May 9-16. Organisations must receive at least 5% of the vote to be recognised as a representative. Then, the government, via a new administrative body created by this law, will directly co-ordinate the process between the representatives and the platforms, deciding when negotiations take place and on what terms.
Edouard Bernasse, Secretary-General of the collective of autonomous platform delivery drivers (CLAP), explained to the Gig Economy Project (in an interview which will be published next week) some of the problems with this government-administered social dialogue. There is no clear provision within the law for negotiation over wages, solely a general reference to discussing how income is determined, Bernasse explained. Secondly, the new administrative body has significant legal powers which would usually be the purview of a judge, and therefore CLAP is concerned about the "objectivity" of this body to decide on fundamental issues like commercial contracts, rather than this being done through the normal legal routes.
"Everything is made for the platform and everything is made to preserve the platform from any objectivity," Bernasse argues. "We don’t think it is a social dialogue anymore. We think it’s more like a classroom."
Minister of Labour Élisabeth Borne has claimed the social partners process will make it possible for 'independent' workers to have agreements with platforms on pay, health & safety and training, but the law has been attacked from the left, with France Insoumise senator Danièle Obono describing it as "the institutionalisation of Uberisation".
The significance of this new law may stretch beyond France. President Emmanuel Macron is also the president of the EU Council until June, and one issue on his agenda will be the EU Commission's platform work directive proposals, which can be amended by the Council. The social dialogue law looks like a last-gasp attempt to breath new life into the independent contractor status, and thus we can surely expect a clash between Macron's French model and the Commission's proposals, which advocates a presumption of employment status for platform workers in Europe.
Writing in the Gig Economy Project this week, Lora Verheecke of Observatoire des Multinationales, a French corporate lobby watchdog, argues that if Macron gets his way on the EU Council, he will impose his model on the whole continent. With the French Presidential election just a few months away, Macron will be looking to make his mark quickly. Employment for platform workers could become "social dialogue" for platform workers in a flash.
Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator
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Gig Economy news round-up
- DANISH TAX COUNCIL RULES WOLT COURIERS ARE EMPLOYEES: Denmark's tax council has ruled that workers for food delivery company Wolt are employees, a finding that could force the company - which was bought by US firm DoorDash last year and has 4,000 couriers in Denmark - to fundamentally change its business model. Henning Boye Hansen, chief consultant at the auditing firm BDO, said that the Danish Tax Agency will probably pursue Wolt for labour market tax contributions which will leave the firm with a "big bill". Wolt CEO Søren Meier Svendsen said they were concerned this tax case, which was pursued by a Wolt courier, will now be taken by Danish politicians as their "starting point" for Wolt couriers in general. Trade union leader Lizette Risgaard said Wolt must "respect the Danish model" of employment. Read more here.
- GORILLAS SET TO BUY FRICHTI: Berlin-based grocery delivery firm Gorillas is in exclusive talks to buy French delivery company Frichti, according to Bloomberg. The purchase would give Gorillas the second largest market share of super-fast grocery delivery in Paris. Frichti has around 450,000 customers and operates 25 micro-fulfilment centres across eight cities in France and Belgium. Frichti would maintain its own branding following the purchase. Gorillas was in continual dispute with its delivery workers, which it employs, in 2021, sacking around 250 couriers in Berlin after a series of wildcat strikes led by the Gorillas Workers Collective. Read more here.
- UBER COLLECTS SENSITIVE CUSTOMER INFORMATION, STUDY FINDS: A research team at 'Surfshark' has analysed 30 gig platforms on Apple's app store to find out how many 'data points' they collect on customers, finding US ridehail giant Uber collects the third most, including sensitive information such as childbirth information, political beliefs and biometric data. Singapore based GrabTaxi collected the most, with 114 data points, with Uber collecting 80 data points. Ride-hail apps on average collected 14 data points per user, with 30% using the data for third-party advertising. Read more here.
- IWGB WRITE TO STUART DELIVERY CEO WARNING OF STRIKE ESCALATION: The Stuart Delivery strike has reached day 39 with no resolution in sight over the key issue of pay, leading the IWGB union, which represents the striking workers, to write to Stuart CEO Damien Bon warning that they will escalate the action if he does not engage with the union and "reverse the pay cuts". Two out of four of the workers demands, on insurance and paid waiting times, have partly been met by the company, but the new pay system introduced at the start of December, which sparked the strike, remains in place. The workers are also demanding a hiring freeze in Sheffield, and in the letter to Bon, the IWGB Sheffield couriers state that claims by the company of an end to over-hiring are "completely untrue". Read more here.
- UBER FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST TAXI PROJECT AND ELITÉ TAXI: US ridehail giant Uber has filed a complaint to the Catalan Competition Authority (ACCO) against the taxi union Elite Taxi Barcelona and Taxi Project 2.0 for "collective boycott and various acts of unfair competition to prevent the entry of Uber in Barcelona." The ACCO has now opened a disciplinary proceeding against the two organisations, both of which are led by Alberto 'Tito' Álvarez, which could open them up to a fine of €1 million. Elité Taxi Barcelona has led the opposition to Uber in Barcelona, with the company leaving the Catalan market in 2019 after new regulations were brought in, only to re-enter in 2021 offering an intermediary service, a move Elité Taxi denounced as "illegal". Álvarez has described the complaint as "meaningless" and is pursuing its own lawsuit against the general director of Uber for slander. 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.