Labour ministers of EU member-states are set to finalise their position on the Platform Work Directive, with reports that France – the state must opposed to strong employment rights in the Directive – now holds the key to the final text. Five unions and worker collectives representing platform workers in France have written to the labour ministers urging them to reject France’s ‘social dialogue’ model for the gig economy. We re-publish the open letter in English (original in French).
Cross-posted from Euractiv with permission.
Ministers of Labour of the European Union,
We, French platform workers, are aware of the arguments used by the French Labour Minister, Olivier Dussopt, and the teams from France’s Permanent Representation in the Council of the European Union to destroy the directive on the rights of platform workers.
We have learned that they are promoting the French system, which is based on the organisation of a framework for social dialogue between platforms and platform workers. They present this system as the magic solution to the sector’s problems proposing the “French model” as opposed to presumption of an employment relationship as endorsed by the European Commission and the European Parliament.
We want to alert and inform you about the reality of the situation in France. The path chosen by France satisfies Uber’s management, and it corresponds in every respect to what its CEO called for at the beginning of 2021 in his white paper “A better deal”. But this sham social dialogue is not at all in our interests, even though we are the main ones affected.
Moreover, we feel it is important to inform you of the voter turnout in worker representation elections. Only 1.83% of the riders and 3.91% of the drivers took part in the election, despite all the communication deployed by the government to publicise it. In other words, the representativeness of the elected representatives must be put into perspective, given the low turnout.
We would like to tell you about the content of the four agreements concluded within this framework of social dialogue that is unfavourable to workers, since it seems that the French Labour Minister, Olivier Dussopt, is constantly praising their success:
- Format of the negotiating framework and of the “Method agreement”: opaque, unbalanced and unfair conditions
The “Method agreement” advocated by the French Labour Minister is intended to set out the procedures for organising collective bargaining. It makes no transparency provisions for sharing information between the platform and the workers, so that we can have all the keys in hand to assess the impact of an agreement. The conditions for fair negotiation have therefore not been met, as workers’ representatives do not have the information they need to negotiate with platforms on an equal footing, in a balanced relationship with the platforms.
Moreover, Uber has a predominant position in this negotiating framework set up by the French government. When it comes to representation, the criteria adopted on the employers’ side give a predominant weight to the big platforms in general, and to Uber in particular.
- “Agreement introducing a minimum hourly income”: an income that is neither hourly nor minimum
When the French Minister for Employment sings the praises of an agreement on a “minimum hourly income” of €11.75 for riders, he deliberately fails to point out that the waiting time between two deliveries, which is almost systematic, is not paid. Thus, it is misleading to talk about a “minimum hourly income”. From this €11.75, we also have to subtract the cost of maintaining our vehicles and equipment, and the equivalent of what is paid via social security contributions for salaried workers: insurance, sickness costs, holidays, contributions to social security funds under the self-employed scheme, tax, etc.
In fact, we will only get this €11.75 gross for the hours “in delivery”, i.e. the time between accepting a ride and delivering it to the customer. To put it another way: if we are connected to an application for 3 hours, if we make 8 deliveries for a total of 2 hours 10 minutes, and if the waiting time between each delivery represents 50 minutes in all, we will only be paid for the 2 hours 10 minutes of delivery and not for the 3 hours, even though we worked for 50 minutes on call. Moreover, given the lack of transparency in the algorithms, there’s a good chance that this tariff will eventually become a ceiling tariff.
- “Agreement on the terms and conditions for breaching commercial relations”: no improvement
Let’s continue with the “Agreement on terms and conditions for breaching commercial relations”, which the French teams have no doubt told you about. In reality, this agreement does not propose any means of avoiding account blockages. It only proposes a time period and the possibility of lodging an appeal, which already existed before. In practice, we will continue to have to queue up to find out why we have been disconnected.
Moreover, there’s no obligation on the platforms to provide us with data on deactivations, such as the number of accounts blocked, the reasons, the number of reconnections, etc.
- “Agreement on a minimum income per ride for drivers”: vagueness about the ride and unpaid working time
The French Labour Minister’s teams are also very proud of the agreement reached on the minimum income per drivers’ ride at €7.65 net. However, they have deliberately avoided explaining to you what the definition of a “ride” is in this context.
Because we don’t know either: we don’t know whether we’re talking about a distance per kilometre or time per hour. Nor do we know what happens if a short journey, for instance one kilometre, takes a long time because of traffic jams.
What we do know, however, thanks to access to drivers’ personal data, is that this agreement has lowered fares per kilometre for drivers.
We also know that the approach time, i.e. the time between accepting the trip and the moment when the driver picks the customer, is not remunerated, even though it is working time entirely made available to the platform, while the vehicle and petrol are used to look for the customer.
Ministers of Labour of the European Union, we hope that you will understand from our explanations that social dialogue for platform workers in France is just window-dressing.
These pseudo-collective agreements are just institutionalising our precariousness by confirming the fraudulent use of the status of self-employed workers by the platforms. The objective is clear: to allow the platforms to continue to subordinate us without having to assume the responsibilities associated with the status of an employer who subordinates. In other words, the sole purpose of this framework of bogus social dialogue is to avoid Uber, Deliveroo and other work platforms having to pay social security contributions and comply with the Labour Law.
Finally, Labour ministers of the European Union, don’t fall into the trap of the misleading arguments put forward by the French government’s representatives at the Council of the European Union!
At the forthcoming Social Affairs Council on 12 and 13 June, on behalf of riders, drivers and platform workers across Europe, we are counting on you to defend our rights rather than follow the deadly path taken by France!
Intersyndicale Nationale VTC
Fédération Sud commerces et services
Collectif des livreurs autonomes de plateformes
Collectif des livreurs d’Aquitaine
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