Co-ops welcome new EU directive on platform working conditions

‘Co-operatives should not be institutionalised as a way for platforms to circumvent their employers’ responsibilities and duties,’ warns CECOP

The European confederation of industrial and service co-operatives (CECOP) has welcomed proposals to improve the working conditions of platform workers, announced by the European Commission on 8 December.

The Commission estimates that 28 million people work in the platform economy in the EU. The draft directive aims to ensure that people working via digital labour platforms are granted the legal employment status along with the labour and social rights that come with the status of “worker”, and provides a list of control criteria to determine whether the platform is an “employer”.

Announcing the directive, the European commissioner for jobs and social rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “It is about what work is taking place, based on facts, not on contracts. We want to correct the misclassifications that exist.

“It comes down to ensuring that these jobs are quality jobs, because this is also an important issue: Those who are working in a platform are entitled to have quality jobs.

“We don’t want this new economy just giving low quality or precarious jobs. We don’t want people working in the EU to face precariousness.

“There is also an economic argument which is about ensuring a level playing field. Why should some companies not be obliged to meet the same social standards as other companies who they are competing against, outside of the platform economy?“

He added: “This is an issue of fair competition between, on the one hand, the platform economy, and on the other hand, more classical forms of companies, but also competition between platforms.”

CECOP welcomed the proposal, which, it said, “promises to put an end to the unfair practice to classify workers as self-employed”.

The directive also wants more transparency over the use of algorithms on platforms, through human monitoring on working conditions and the right to contest automated decisions.

CECOP said this measure could “favour co-operative platforms whose model provides workers with ownership and control over algorithms and data”.

In another drive to improve transparency, the directive will ask platforms to make key information about their activities and workforce available to national authorities. CECOP believes this would “allow a more level playing field with platforms committed to providing higher work standards such as co-operative platforms”.

But it warned that “co-operatives should not be institutionalised as a way for platforms to circumvent their employers’ responsibilities and duties”.

It adds: “Joining a co-operative can be a solution for self-employed working through platforms, provided the co-operative principles are respected meaning voluntary membership and members’ governance and control over the co-operative.”

CECOP also called on the Commission to work on improving the directive, taking into account the European Parliament’s report “Improving working conditions of platform workers”, the European Economic and Social Committee’s opinion “Non-standard employment and platform cooperatives in the digital transformation of industry and the European Commission’s Social Economy Action Plan.

The potential of co-operative ownership in the digital platform economy was also acknowledged in an opinion published by the European Economic and Social Committee. The committee argued that co-operative platforms encourage greater economic diversification and promote economic democracy by fostering collective ownership of digital services, data and technological infrastructure.