EU plans to improve conditions for workers in odd-job economy by classifying them as employees

LONDON (AP) – A new European Union plan to improve conditions for the growing number of workers in the odd-job economy could mean millions more of them are classified as eligible employees , the latest setback for digital platforms that depend on independent entrepreneurs to deliver food and offer rides.

The draft rules presented on Thursday seek to clarify the work status of people employed by app-based companies like ride-sharing service Uber and food delivery company Deliveroo and would add monitoring of the algorithms they use to manage. the workers.

Workers and platforms in the gig economy have fallen through the cracks of existing labor laws, and the measures envisioned by the 27-nation bloc, which would take years to come into effect, are aimed at eliminating these gray areas.

App-based concert work platforms have exploded in the digital economy, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when demand for food delivery services skyrocketed. As apps provide short-term work for millions of people, their rampant growth has disrupted traditional models of work and business, leading to confrontations between businesses and regulators around the world. The flexibility of working on stage is a selling point for many, but workers also complain about earning less than minimum wage once expenses or waiting time are factored in.

Under EU rules, which have yet to be approved by the European Parliament, a platform that meets at least two criteria will be considered an “employer” and people working for that company will be reclassified as “workers” with the right to minimum wage, paid holidays, pensions and unemployment and sickness benefits.

Criteria include whether an application decides pay levels; electronically supervises the execution of the work; restricts a worker’s freedom to choose his or her hours of work, to accept jobs or to use subcontractors; dictates the appearance and conduct of a worker with customers; or limits the ability of workers to create their own business or work for someone else.

Uber says it is determined to improve working conditions but is worried about the EU’s proposal “endangering thousands of jobs, crippling small businesses in the wake of the pandemic and damaging vital services on which consumers Europeans count ”.

READ MORE: Pandemic Changes How Consumers Use Concert Business, Survey Finds

“All EU-wide rules should allow drivers and couriers to retain the flexibility we know they value most, while allowing platforms to introduce more protections and benefits,” a statement from the carpooling service said.

Amsterdam-based Just Eat Takeaway, which operates in 25 countries and owns brands including GrubHub, said it “fully welcomes and supports” the proposals and hopes they will provide businesses across Europe “with clarity. and a level playing field “. Unlike other food delivery platforms, the company’s runners are employed as staff, which she says “proves that flexibility should not come at the expense of workers’ rights.”

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, estimates that some 28 million people on the continent are self-employed on digital platforms, reaching 43 million by 2025, but predicts that up to 4.1 million could be reclassified as employees under the rules. The EU has played a leading global role in cracking down on tech companies to ensure everything from workers’ rights to online safety.

Platforms can challenge the classification, but the onus will be on them to prove that they are not employers, the commission said.

“No one is trying to kill, stop or hinder this growth of the platform economy,” said European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit during a meeting. press in Brussels.

But “it’s about making sure those jobs are quality jobs. … We do not want this new economy to only give poor quality or precarious jobs.

The proposed European rules are another blow to businesses in the odd-job economy in Europe. New laws or recent court rulings in Spain, the Netherlands and Great Britain require meal deliverers and transport service drivers to be granted employee status rather than being classified as self-employed.

There have been more than 100 court decisions across Europe on the issue, with most judges ruling that independent contractors are employees, which the committee took into account when drafting its guideline.

In contrast, Uber and other app-based services have avoided an attempt in California to classify workers as employees, though the battle continues in court.

The European Commission also wants to force work platforms for concerts to be more transparent about the algorithms used to manage workers so they can better understand how jobs are assigned and pay is set. People should be watching the algorithms and workers should be able to appeal any automated decisions, he said.

In Spain, concert worker Sebastián Honorato, who makes motorcycle deliveries, said a new national law introduced this year failed to achieve the benefits the government promised. He said it was unfair because it only regulates food delivery people, while others like Amazon parcel delivery people are not covered.

And instead of directly hiring workers for concerts, foreign tech platforms in Spain have resorted to temporary employment agencies. Honorata, a spokesperson for the Independent Horse Riders Association, said he earns more than 1,600 euros ($ 1,800) a month after paying his social security charges, but now earns 900 euros in a good month.

Honorata, who lives in Granada, southern Spain, said delivery people should be regulated similarly across Europe, but feared the Brussels approach would produce results similar to the Spanish model.

“What we wanted was not to be salaried, nor completely independent. We wanted an intermediate model, like they did in California, ”Honorata said. Before Spanish law, group work “was an economically viable model, although it had a murky legal status. We wanted to give it a legal framework, but not lose any of its viability. Now it’s a disaster.

Associated Press writer Joseph Wilson in Barcelona contributed to this report.

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