Gig Economy Project: Co-op Cycle – Uberisation and presumption of employment: the government challenges its own coherence

Co-op Cycle is a federation of bike delivery co-operatives with 60 affiliated co-op’s in Europe. In this open letter, they criticise the French Government’s approach towards Uberisation and argue for strong employment rights for platform workers across Europe.

Vous pouvez lire la lettre ouverte en français ici.

Picture by Force Ouvriere

Today [25 May], Elisabeth Borne, Clément Beaune and Olivier Dussopt are addressing the parliamentary enquiry on the Uber Files. We, members of the CoopCycle association, express our concern about the position that the French government will adopt on this issue, while a proposal for a directive is currently under negotiation in the European Council, where France is represented by Olivier Dussopt. We call on the government not to legitimise this system of outsourcing! This would be tantamount to supporting companies that get rich by undermining the rights of all workers.

Uber, a deleterious model for delivery drivers

For many years, the problems resulting from uberisation have been scrupulously documented. Working conditions and remuneration are abysmal and constantly deteriorating. Workers are working longer hours to maintain their income, which affects their safety and health. The number of precarious delivery workers is increasing, including undocumented workers and sometimes even minors! 

Of the 700 delivery workers that the CoopCycle association has surveyed in the Courier Houses, 75% work more than 6 days a week, 56% deliver between nine and 12 hours a day. Finally, 84% say they want to continue in this profession as employees, as they feel the status is more protective. 

To give the illusion of action in the face of a discredited model, the ARPE (Employment Platforms Social Relations Authority) has been set up. But with less than 2% of delivery workers participating in the elections, the legitimacy of these negotiations is nil. Its aim is only to preserve the platform model. 

The agreement signed last month by Mr Dussopt only remunerates delivery time at €11.75 per hour, forgetting the waiting time inherent in the delivery model. It’s as if parliamentarians were only paid during the sitting, or cashiers only when the customer is at the checkout. What more absurd way to organise remuneration could there be?

On the other hand, the Uber model is not profitable. Having accumulated $33.3 billion in losses since 2014, the company still lives on fundraising. The strategy of this type of platform is to dominate the market by selling at a loss. Once in a monopoly situation, the surviving platform of this price war will increase its rates for consumers as well as the levies on restaurant owners and reduce the remuneration of delivery staff. This is the “winner takes all” scheme where only the platform wins at the expense of the other players.

A toxic model for delivery workers and society

Over the past decade, uberisation has challenged the way production relationships are established in our society. Uber has emerged as a key player in this redefinition. This new approach, similar to the one that prevailed in the 19th century before the advent of wage labour, places capital and task labour at the centre of production processes, relegating the worker to the background. Important decisions such as pay and frequency of assignments are made by algorithms while the intelligence and specific contribution of people is ignored, leading to an annihilation of humanity at work.

However, Uber platforms have not succeeded in imposing themselves alone, they have been supported by political choices. The revelations of the “Uber Files” and the parliamentary hearings have exposed the inaction of the state in the face of aggressive and illegal practices, jeopardising the solidity of our social model. This is all the more worrying as many sectors of the economy are now falling victim to Uberisation, as this model is now extending to areas such as passenger transport, shop checkout, as well as tasks once considered more skilled, such as marketing or accounting.

While the government recently claimed to be defending the fiscal sustainability of the pay-as-you-go pension system, it should be crucial for them to preserve its revenues, i.e. the contributions based on the remuneration of work through wages! But the actors taking advantage of the generalisation of self-employment have skilfully played on the slowness inherent in democratic decision-making. This constitutes a danger for the durability of our social model which is based on social contributions, both from employees and employers. Indeed, the self-employed status eliminates the employer’s share of social contributions and the contribution rate is lower than that of an employee. Moreover, the increased competition between workers mechanically reduces social contributions by reducing salaries.

Uberisation is therefore an attack on democracy by financial capitalism: no one voted for or wanted to sacrifice the most vulnerable and our social model on the altar of profit. It jeopardises a protective system that delivery workers support, and that CoopCycle supports through its alternative platform model owned by workers. A social model that is under attack and that the government must defend!

France must support the presumption of salaried status

A glimmer of hope lies in the directive proposed by the European Commission and voted on by the European Parliament on 2 February 2023. It proposes a presumption of employment if the platform meets at least two of the following criteria: it determines the level of remuneration or sets ceilings; it supervises the performance of the work electronically; it limits the freedom to choose hours, holidays, refusal of a task or subcontracting; it sets specific mandatory rules on appearance and conduct towards the end customer; it limits the possibility of working for other customers

While the French MEPs of the Renew group voted in favour of the directive in the Parliament, Mr Dussopt defends a presumption of independence which goes against this directive. It is difficult for us to understand the contradictory signals coming from the presidential majority on this issue. Our concerns remain about the French government’s position on Uberisation. 

We call on the French government to clarify its position and to support the European directive in the terms proposed by the Commission.

This text is signed by the activists of the CoopCycle association, leaders of the Courier Houses and founder of the CoopCycle federation of bicycle delivery cooperatives.


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