Gig Economy Project – EU set to pass Platform Work Directive after last minute U-turns

Platform Work Directive four-year legislative saga finally over after Estonia and Greece u-turns, leaving France and Germany isolated.

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THE EU will pass the Platform Work Directive, after last-minute U-turns from Estonia and Greece.

A high-level meeting of labour ministers from all 27 member-states of the EU on Monday [11 March] called EPSCO Council finally broke the deadlock after years of wrangling, with only France and Germany refusing to support the regulation.

The Platform Work Directive (PWD) will establish a legal presumption of employment in the platform economy, a legal instrument whereby gig workers’ can be considered to be employees and entitled to rights like sick leave and holiday pay if a relationship of subordination between the platform and their workers’ is proven.

However, it will be up to each member-state to define the criteria for deciding on whether such a subordination relationship exists, a compromise which means there is unlikely to be a level playing field across the EU for platform workers’ rights once the PWD has been transposed into national law.

The PWD also includes a set of new workers’ rights in relation to algorithmic management, including the right for platform workers’ to know what data is collected on them, for human oversight over key decisions and restrictions on what data can be collected and when.


On 16 February, a blocking minority of four states – France, Germany, Greece and Estonia – had prevented the provisional agreement, negotiated by the Belgian Presidency with the European Parliament one week earlier, from passing. Under EU rules, a 65% population share of member-states’ is needed to pass new law.

The text remains unchanged, but Greece and Estonia announced on Monday that they had changed their minds, breaking the blocking minority.

Domna Michailidou, Greek minister of Labour and Social Security for centre-right New Democracy, said that Greece’s “concerns are still here”, which she said were over “legal certainty” and that the Directive was in contradiction with Greece’s own national platform work laws, which she claimed “secures work safety and wage bargaining for the self-employed”.

“However,” she added, “considering the fact that we understand a lot of work has been done by everyone here on drafting and re-drafting and concluding with a Directive that is much closer to where we were in the beginning [with the original Council proposal]. And given the fact that we want to work with the spirit of compromise and with European solidarity, we will support the Directive.”

The announcement of the U-turn was met by audible gasps and claps in the Council meeting, with the chair of the meeting, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy and Employment Pierre-Yves Dermagne, stating later that he was “surprised” by the shift in position.

The Estonian minister said that the presumption of employment should “respect the different patterns of work”, be “easy to implement” and “must not unduly restrict the use of AI systems for automated decision-making”, and that Estonia is “not entirely convinced that all of these principles have been safeguarded in the text”.

“But,” he added, “as with Greece, in the spirit of compromise we will be able to support the agreement and trust it will be implemented in the best interests of workers’ and platforms.”

Both the Greek and Estonian Ministers said they shared the concerns of France, who’s representative had earlier said that President Emmanuel Macron’s government could only support the Platform Work Directive if the changes they had proposed on Friday [8 March], which would have watered down the proposal further, were introduced. 

German labour minister Hubertus Heil had said his government would once again not take a position “because our coalition partners cannot agree”. The German Government is a coalition between the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Greens and the liberal FDP, the latter of which has refused to give its blessing to the PWD.

Heil, who is in the SPD, said that he personally thought that the Directive would be “a big step forward for social Europe” and that he “regretted” his abstention. 

The U-turns left Germany and France – by far the two largest countries’ in the EU – unusually isolated, as the law is one of the first in the EU to pass without either states’ blessing. 

However, not all countries’ are entirely happy with what they signed up to. The Belgian-negotiated text is a compromise of a compromise, negotiated only after a previous provisional agreement negotiated under the Spanish Presidency had been rejected by 12 member-states in December. That agreement had a criteria for triggering the presumption of employment which would have applied across the EU.

Yolanda Díaz, left-wing Spanish labour minister, said at the meeting that her country was “not that keen” on the Belgian-negotiated proposal and would support it only if the changes pushed for by France were not included. In the end, the reversal of the positions of Greece and Estonia ensured that the French proposed amendments were no longer relevant.

The Platform Work Directive still has to be officially ratified by the European Parliament, but that will be a mere formality as the Belgian-negotiated text has the support of almost all of the European parliamentary groups except the far-right. 


Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne responded to the news by stating: “This is the first-ever piece of EU legislation to regulate algorithmic management in the workplace and to set EU minimum standards to improve working conditions for millions of platform workers across the EU. 

“The agreement confirmed today builds on the efforts of previous Council presidencies and reaffirms the social dimension of the European Union.”

Leíla Chaibi, France Insoumise MEP and campaigner for platform workers’ rights, said: “Throughout the negotiations, the French President has tried to torpedo the presumption of salaried employment. To serve Uber rather than workers. Macron, who proclaims himself the champion of “a Europe that protects”, has demonstrated here that in reality he is only protecting the interests of lobbies.

“Thanks to our fight, we didn’t let Uber rule Europe. With this Directive, millions of false self-employed across Europe will be reclassified as employees.”

Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for jobs and social rights who is responsible for this file on the Commission, tweeted: “This is a momentous day for gig workers. New EU rules will give platform workers more rights and protections without hampering platforms’ ability to develop. The EU has delivered today.”

Spanish campaign group RidersXDerechos tweeted: “The European ‘rider law’ was approved a few minutes ago, but it applies to more fake self-employed jobs, not just riders. Each country sets its rules, so we will be attentive to the next movements of the lobbies in each country. The fight continues.”

Ludovic Voet, Confederal Secretary at the European Trade Union Confederation, tweeted: “We won. The Platform Work Directive is adopted by EU Council. Was high time. Now it’s urgent to deliver and implement it to get workers’ their rights. This has been an incredible fight of the trade union movement over the last 4 years. So proud of all of us.”

Jitse Groen, CEO of Just Eat Takeaway, said: “White smoke for the Platform Work Directive. Just eat Takeaway fully supports this improvement of platform workers’ rights and a level playing field across Europe.”

An Uber spokesperson said*: “EU lawmakers have voted to maintain the status quo today, with platform worker status continuing to be decided country-to-country and court-to-court. Uber now calls on EU countries to introduce national laws that give platform workers the protections they deserve while maintaining the independence they prefer.”

This quote was added in after initial publication of the article.*

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