Gig Economy Project – Big majority in European Parliament vote for Platform Work Directive agreement

Eighty-seven per cent of MEPs back the platform work regulation, despite years of wrangling over the law.

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THE European Parliament has voted in favour of the Platform Work Directive agreement, confirming its passage through the EU institutions.

Despite years of wrangling over the text of the Directive, the final agreement – signed-off by member-states in March – received a big majority from MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday [24 April], with 554 voting in favour, 87 per cent of the Parliament. Fifty-six voted against, with 24 abstaining. 

The Platform Work Directive seeks to tackle the problem of bogus self-employment by establishing a legal presumption of employment in the platform economy, a legal instrument for determining labour status. However, it leaves it up to member-states to decide on the all-important details of that legal presumption. 

The Directive also creates a new set of rights for gig workers in relation to algorithmic management, including the right to know what data is held on you and the right to human supervision over important automated decisions like whether to suspend or deactivate a worker’s account.

READ MORE: EU set to pass Platform Work Directive after last minute U-turns

Elisabetta Gualmini MEP, the rapporteur of the European Parliament on the Platform Work Directive, spoke to the MEPs ahead of the vote, stating: “When the European Parliament acts with determination and unity then the EU does manage to really change the lives of the citizens for the better.”

She said that the Directive was “a wonderful signal and is something that will remain in the history of this Parliament”, adding that about 6 million workers who are currently bogus self-employed in the EU will now “be governed by objective employment conditions”. 

Gualmini referred to Sebastian Galassi, a 26 year old Glovo rider who died in 2022 in the Italian city of Florence in an accident while at work. Galassi was ‘robo-fired’ from Glovo for not making the delivery after he had passed away. 

“We are putting our collective feet down to say, ‘no, we don’t want this’,” Gualmini said. 

The Italian Social Democratic MEP concluded by saying that “today we have demonstrated that the EU is not just a major regulator but can actually change peoples lives.”

READ MORE: “My life is worth more than a sandwich”: Strike in Florence after death of a rider

Leïla Chaibi MEP, who has led the work of The Left group in the European Parliament on the Platform Work Directive, said following the vote: “This directive will change the lives of millions of people. With the presumption of salaried employment, more than 5 million platform workers will finally have access to labour law, paid holidays, minimum wage, a pension…”

She added: ”Even if this agreement is very far from the initial ambitions of the Parliament, it avoids allowing France and the [other] member states not to submit to the principle of presumption of salaried employment.”

Platform resistance

There will now be a two year window for the Platform Work Directive to be transposed into national law, with push-back from some of the biggest digital labour platforms in Europe expected. 

On Tuesday, Euractiv released information uncovered by the Corporate Europe Observatory through an FoI request, which shows that Bolt, one of Europe’s largest multi-modal platforms, went to great lengths to influence the Estonian government over the Platform Work Directive. 

Estonia was part of a group of four-states, including Greece, Germany and France, which had opposed the compromise agreement negotiated in February, before a last minute u-turn along with Greece at the 11 March EPSCO Council. 

GEP NEWSLETTER: Why breaking the law might still pay-off for platforms in Spain

Uber responded to the Platform Work Directive by claiming that it meant “the status quo”, as the decision over employment status will still be made “country-to-country and court-to-court”. 

Deliveroo CEO Will Shu told investors that he was confident the company’s riders in France would continue to be self-employed as that was the policy of President Emmanuel Macron and the Directive means “that national law will continue to determine final employment status decisions as is the case today”. 

The resistance from platforms to employment status in the gig economy has already played out in Spain, where the Rider Law established a legal presumption of employment in 2021. While Just Eat responded to the law by employing its riders, Uber Eats and Glovo have not, racking up hundreds of millions in fines as a result but also saving money in labour costs and gaining in market share over Just Eat.

In light of the likely conflicts which are set to emerge over the implementation of the Platform Work Directive, the European Trade Union Confederation’s confederal secretary Ludovic Voet has called for an expert working group to be established to support the transposition of the Directive into national law.

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