The European confederation of industrial and service co-operatives (Cecop) has welcomed the latest steps taken by MEPs towards enacting measures to improve the working conditions in the gig economy.
This follows news last month that the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) adopted a report on the European Commission’s proposal for a directive improving working conditions in platform work.
The text, which will serve as a draft-negotiating mandate on new rules governing the sector, includes measures to combat false self-employment in platform work, a human oversight on all decisions affecting working conditions, and a requirement for platforms to share more information with national authorities.
Under the draft text adopted by EMPL, workers for digital labour platforms are presumed to be in an employment relationship with the platforms, as opposed to being self-employed. In the event of a dispute between the platform and a worker, the platform – rather than the worker- would have the responsibility to prove that they do not employ the worker.
Non-mandatory criteria would also be introduced to determine a worker’s employment status, including a set salary, defined time schedule and working time, rating systems, tracking or supervision of a worker, rules regarding appearance or conduct, restricted options to work for any third party or restricted freedom to choose accident insurance or a pension scheme.
The text also introduces provisions to boost the exchange of information between competent labour, social protection and tax authorities in cross-border cases and dissuasive penalties.
Cecop, whose members include co-ops of freelancers, truck drivers, taxi drivers, journalists, masons, graphic designers, consultants, doctors and lawyers, welcomed the employment presumption.
It noted that “while the text of the report does not openly mention co-operatives as entities ensuring democratic worker representation, it nonetheless defines workers’ representatives and representatives of persons performing platform work in a way that is inclusive of co-operative business forms”.
The text also recognises “the significant economic and social role of social economy entities as an example of participatory-governed businesses which use digital platforms to facilitate citizen engagement and the selling of locally produced goods and services, aiming to achieve better working conditions for their members.”
It adds that co-operatives could constitute “an important instrument for the bottom-up organisation of platform work and could encourage competition between platforms” and calls on member states to “protect and promote co-operative undertakings and small businesses by means that aim to safeguard employment and ensure their capacity for sustainable development and growth.”
The report warns that “the use of subcontracting chains has been used as a way of circumventing the application of labour law to platform workers”, and sets up measures to prevent situations in which platforms manage to avoid their employers’ responsibilities through the use of subcontractors.
Cecop also acknowledged the report’s provisions on transparency, fairness, human oversight, safety and accountability in algorithmic management, including for self-employed workers.
It added: “The European Parliament’s report represents a significant, progressive step in regulation of platform work.
“According to European Commission’s estimates, 28 million people in the EU worked through digital labour platforms, and this number will reach 43 million by 2025. Currently, millions of workers are misclassified as self-employed, which deprives them of social protection and labour rights, and undermines honest businesses, which do comply with the relevant labour legislation.
“For co-operative businesses in particular, a stricter European regulation on digital labour platforms is important as a way to ensure level playing field and their competitiveness in the single market. We call on the members of the European Parliament to support EMPL committee’s report in the plenary vote.”
The text was adopted with 41 votes to 12 and will act as a negotiating mandate for the upcoming talks with EU governments.
Elisabetta Gualmini (S&D, IT), the lead rapporteur, said: “Too many platform workers today are bogusly self-employed, stuck in limbo with no labour rights and social protection. With this report, we are making sure that they are recognised as either employees or self-employed, depending on their actual conditions of work. Moreover, this is a first crucial step towards protecting all workers against the abuse of algorithms. Automated decision-making systems cannot be black boxes; social partners will be able to negotiate how algorithms take decisions regarding working conditions.”
The European Commission estimates there are 516 platforms operating across the European Union, with 28 million people working for these platforms.
Cecop’s full position on the platform work directive is available here.