The Gig Economy Project rounds up some of the key reaction to the Uber Files from unions, politicians, NGOs and others.
The Gig Economy Project, led by Ben Wray, was initiated by BRAVE NEW EUROPE enabling us to provide analysis, updates, ideas, and reports from all across Europe on the Gig Economy. If you have information or ideas to share, please contact Ben on GEP@Braveneweurope.com.
This series of articles concerning the Gig Economy in the EU is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust.
ADCU union call for the immediate dismissal of Gore-Coty
In response to the Uber Files, the union called for the immediate dismissal of Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, the head of Uber Eats who was revealed by the Uber Files to have been involved in the ‘kill switch’ used to prevent government investigators from accessing information on the company and maintained a “playbook to fight [government] enforcement”.
Commenting, James Farrar, ADCU General Secretary, and Yaseen Aslam, ADCU President, said: “Regulatory control in rideshare exists for the safety of both drivers and the travelling public. We have all seen the tragic results of Uber’s unethical & exploitative management conduct which too often, directly or indirectly, places passengers and drivers at risk of death or injury.
“Gore-Coty did not just passively ignore regulations, he led a management initiative to thwart regulatory oversight and defy enforcement. In his current role as SVP for delivery, a market that is less regulated even than rideshare, Gore-Coty presents a very serious risk to the safety of millions of vulnerable UberEats couriers worldwide. For these reasons, we are demanding the immediate dismissal of Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty by the CEO and board of directors of Uber.”
Elité Taxi Barcelona to protest against Catalan Competition Authority
In Barcelona, Elité Taxi, the union of taxi drivers in the Catalan capital, won a major victory over Uber last week as the Catalan Government announced plans for regulation of ridehail platforms which will limit them to limousines and passenger vans only.
In response to the Uber Files, Elité Taxi’s leader Alberto ‘Tito’ Àlvarez has said the organisation will protest against the Catalan Competition Authority (ACCO) and the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) due to their “complicity”. ACCO opened a file against the union which could potentially result in a crippling fine after a complaint by Uber of “anti-competitive tactics” earlier this year. An investigation by Spanish authorities into tax fraud by Uber was initiated in 2021 after evidence was provided by Elité Taxi.
Commenting on the Uber Files, Àlvarez said: “We have been denouncing Uber’s practices for a long time. We are grateful for the journalistic work that has uncovered it. Uber says they have changed the policy, but they continue to act as a criminal organisation.
“We have been criminalised a lot but it has been shown that we were right. It is sad that an institution such as the competition agencies are helping companies that carry out this type of practise. Behind the taxis are families who have gone through situations of anxiety, we want justice. We will not stop until they leave here.”
ETUC call for a European Parliament investigation into “anti-worker lobbying”
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has been campaigning for an EU platform work directive which protects platform workers’ rights, and the ETUC have pointed to the huge sums which Uber has been spending in recent years on lobbying in Brussels – between €700,000 and €899,999 for each of the past five years on record. Following the Uber leak, they are now calling for an official investigation by the European Parliament into their “anti-worker lobbying”.
ETUC Confederal Secretary Ludovic Voet said: “This explosive leak comes as Uber are lobbying hard to try and water down EU legislation on the rights of platform workers. Details of secret dealings between Uber and EU policymakers will understandably damage the confidence of workers in the legislative process.
“That’s why European Parliament president Roberta Metsola must urgently initiate an investigation into Uber’s lobbying of the EU and suspend the accreditation of Uber’s EU lobbyists until its conclusion.
“The leak shows exactly what kind of company Uber really are, with its lobbyists willing to go to any length to rewrite the rules in their favour and simply ignore them when they can’t. Uber say they have changed but Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, who is at the centre of this scandal, is still the head of Uber Eats which is lobbying against EU action on workers’ rights.
“If Uber want to show they’ve changed, they should stop lobbying against their own workers’ right to fair pay and conditions and engage in collective bargaining with trade unions across Europe.”
Leïla Chaibi MEP calls for President Macron to be held “accountable”
Leïla Chaibi, MEP for France Insoumise, has been one of Europe’s leading campaigners for platform workers’ rights, and has been repeatedly insisting that French President Emmanuel Macron was a President working on behalf of platforms like Uber. Now, the Uber Files have revealed Macron personally intervening in a dispute in Marseille in support of Uber when he was a Minister in 2015, and telling the company that he had done a “deal” in the cabinet which would be helpful to Uber in France.
France Insoumise has called for a parliamentary commission of inquiry into Uber’s strategy in the period it was establishing itself in France, and Chaibi said it was an “excellent initiative from colleagues at the French Assembly. We must shed full light on the state scandal. At your disposal to testify to the actions of Macron, accomplice of the lobbies of Uber and co to derail European regulations”.
She added: “For years Emmanuel Macron has been Uber’s chief lobbyist because he saw that there was the possibility with Uberisation, of building a trojan horse to break labour law. Now that the scandal is breaking, Macron must be accountable!”
Union leader Ben Ali Brahim announces protest outside Uber’s French HQ
Ben Ali Brahim is the General Secretary of the INV union in France, which represents Uber drivers. Ali Brahim has been leading the struggle for better working conditions for platform workers for years, and he told the Gig Economy Project that he met with the source of the Uber Files, Mark McGann, Uber’s chief lobbyist in Europe at the time, before they were released.
Ali Brahim has announced a protest outside Uber’s French headquarters in Paris on Wednesday [13 July] at 10.30am.
“We want an acknowledgment of the responsibility of the State and of Uber in this scandal,” he said.
“We need to set up a commission of enquiry, get the labour inspectorate involved against Uber,” he added.
Fair Work call for “government intervention” to ensure platform workers’ rights
Fair Work, the academic-action project based at the University of Oxford, has been consistently giving Uber low ratings for the working conditions of its drivers for years. In response to the Uber Files, Fair Work released a statement saying that the Uber Files were “no surprise” and calling for “governments to do more to protect gig workers.
Fair Work said that the Uber Files “reveal how Uber’s current success is built on unethical practices and political access to bend existing legislation, putting their drivers’ safety and wellbeing at risk. Beyond the US and Europe, Uber has used these questionable practices to expand across the Global South and continues to do so by lobbying for weaker labour regulations. In India, Bangladesh and Egypt, for instance, our research has found evidence of workers accumulating significant debts to Uber, trapping them in service to the platform.
“Research from the Fairwork project, University of Oxford, which rates working conditions in the platform economy, finds Uber consistently amongst the lowest scoring across countries in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Even in the UK, where their drivers are employed by the platform, Uber could not evidence they offer fair pay, conditions, and management.
“If Uber “will not make excuses for past behaviour”, Fairwork calls for government intervention to ensure platforms do more to improve the working conditions of their workers today. On December 2021, the European Commission proposed a directive to improve the working conditions in platform work. There is also a new status of workers bill, which aims to improve the working conditions of platform and other precarious workers in the UK. While these legislative measures are important steps toward ensuring fairer working conditions, they will only be as good as their enforcement. The Uber Files show that powerful companies are able to evade the authorities under the current system of enforcement. We need stronger trade unions and labour institutions along with governments that put labour issues first.”
Corporate Europe Observatory point to the Kroes scandal
One of the most explosive revelations of the Uber Files is that Neelie Kroes, a former vice-president of the European Commission, breached lobbying rules after leaving office in support of Uber. Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), which published a damning report into Uber’s EU lobbying in 2019 called ‘Uberinfluential’, have repeatedly warned that the rules in place to prevent a revolving door between EU officials and big corporations are woefully insufficient. In 2016 they carried out an investigation into Kroes, in which they were told by the European Commission information which now turns out to be untrue.
In response to the Uber Files, CEO have published an article looking at the Kroes case in detail. In the piece, they conclude: “The recent media revelations regarding Neelie Kroes raise serious questions, both for Kroes and the Commission.”
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