Just a click and a Deliveroo cyclist delivers a fresh meal to our front door, an Uber driver takes us from A to B and a Helpling cleaner tidies our home. Platforms and the use of these services have become an inseparable part of our lives. However, over all this comfort we are only too ready to ignore the issue concerning the working conditions of these service providers.
Yesterday’s World Day for Decent Work, which annually takes place on 7 October, draws attention to exactly these working conditions. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) used this day to highlight the precarious working conditions of platform workers. So yesterday, ETUC together with other trade unions and workers’ organisations demonstrated for decent working conditions for platform workers in front of the EU institutions in Brussels.
Work and services, which are provided via platforms, have experienced a massive increase in recent years and the Covid-19 crisis reinforced this development even further. However, the downsides of the platform economy, such as lacking social protection and income stability are becoming more and more obvious: in most cases, platform operators portray platform work as an atypical form of employment. This means that the working conditions and social rights of platform workers are not subject to the protective regulations of regular employment relationships. Platform workers are particularly vulnerable in this grey area between economic independence and self-employment; hence, clear regulation and concerted action at EU level is vital. On 15 September 2021, the European Parliament voted for the Report on regulating the working conditions of platform workers with a clear majority.
The key aspects of the EU Parliament’s report also reflect the most important demands of trade unions, workers’ organisations and NGOs:
- End of bogus self-employment and the reversal of the burden of proof: platforms often classify employees as self-employed; in this case minimum pay provisions and collective agreements do not apply. What is needed is a reversal of the burden of proof so that in future platform companies have to proof that employees are self-employed and not vice versa.
- Social protection and work equipment: social protection must be guaranteed, independent of the work status. In case of an accident or illness, platform workers must be entitled to health insurance and compensation payments. The platform must also provide any necessary work equipment. The Covid-19 crisis has clearly shown that in many cases platform workers have to work without any social protection.
- Increased transparency for algorithms: platform workers are often paid, promoted and dismissed on the basis of an algorithm when certain quotas are not met. The EP report demands that decisions based on these algorithms have to be transparent, ethical and reliable and ultimately be controlled by human beings. This shall counteract the massive discrimination potential of algorithmic rating systems.
- Collective agreements: independent of whether platform workers are employed or self-employed, they must have the right to collective bargaining and to join trade unions. The creation of a so-called “third employment status” must be ruled out under any circumstances. Furthermore, there needs to be a complaints office for all platform employees where incidents of harassment or discrimination can be reported.
The Commission has long announced an EU legislative proposal on regulating platform employment. It shall now be presented on 8 December 2021. Besides many other trade unions and workers’ organisations, AK EUROPA has for years pointed out the bypassing by platforms of social protection and in particular of the Labour and Employment Law. One can only hope that the EU Commission will finally react to the urgent demands from the workers' side.
AK EUROPA: Platform work: urgent need for regulation
A&W Blog: Plattformarbeit: warum es eine EU-Plattformarbeits-Richtlinie braucht (German only)
ETUC: Make Platform Companies Respect The Rules #WDDW21
International Trade Union Confederation: Building Workers’ Power