French platform workers elect representatives ahead of ‘social dialogue’

This "social dialogue" will likely first focus on workers' pay and the ability of workers to negotiate the price of rides. [CatwalkPhotos/Shutterstock]

Delivery workers and drivers of passenger cars working in France are being called on from Monday (9 May) to elect union representatives who will conduct a ‘social dialogue’ with platforms like Uber and Deliveroo to improve their working conditions. EURACTIV France reports.

This is a first in France. More than 120,000 drivers of passenger cars and delivery couriers will be casting their vote online to select who will represent them in upcoming discussions with platforms. The aim of this exercise is to ensure the social protection and working conditions of these workers are improved.

Trade unions and associations have agreed to present themselves in the vote, with one winner representing drivers of passenger cars, while the other will represent delivery couriers.

Platform workers have a week – until 16 May – to cast their votes.

“We hope that the turnout will be correct, but these are sectors that have been rather distant from these concerns up to now,” Joël Blondel, director-general of the Authority for Social Relations of Employment Platforms, told EURACTIV. “If we reach 10%, we will be satisfied,” he added.

This authority was created in 2021 with the aim of helping improve working conditions for platform workers. It was also entrusted with the organisation of these elections, after which it will be responsible for mediating between platforms and the elected representative organisations to reach potential new sector agreements.

Labour minister Elisabeth Borne, who is also responsible for the authority, welcomed the elections and the ambition of the government to bring about dialogue between the parties in order to move towards better working conditions and new rights, “while respecting the self-employed status to which most of them are attached.”

A spokesperson for the Association of Self-Employed Platforms, which represents Deliveroo and Uber, among others, told EURACTIV: “Since its inception, our association has defended the establishment of social consultation mechanisms to get out of the debate on the status alone, and discuss the implementation of new concrete rights that benefit the whole sector.”

But revisiting the self-employment status of these workers is out of the question. “This is a governmental choice,” said Blondel.

“It is a question of setting up a social dialogue between the representatives of the self-employed and the platforms, on the assumption that the current status is maintained, namely the commercial relationship between a platform and the self-employed,” he added.

This “social dialogue” will likely first focus on workers’ pay and the ability of workers to negotiate the price of rides.

However, the debate over employment status is currently taking place in the corridors of the European Parliament, as its employment and social affairs committee is due to soon publish its report on the European Commission’s December proposal.

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Reclassified as employees

In its proposal, the European Commission suggests adopting a list of criteria, which could lead platform workers, who are very often self-employed, to be automatically reclassified as employees.

The categorisation would be based on the so-called ‘rebuttable presumption’, a provision that would automatically classify workers who meet certain criteria as employees, unless the platform is able to prove otherwise.

According to the Commission’s estimates, up to 5.5 million people working through platforms are victims of a mischaracterisation of their professional status in Europe, depriving them of certain rights.

However, a study financed by the platforms estimates that cutting back on the flexibility these workers currently enjoy could lead to 250,000 couriers abandoning the sector.

In addition to guaranteeing better social protection for not truly self-employed platform workers, the directive aims to harmonise domestic systems that have produced numerous, sometimes contradictory, court decisions in recent months.

Just recently, a Paris court fined Deliveroo €375,000 for having abused the self-employed status of its workers between 2015 and 2017.

Paris court fines Deliveroo €375,000 for undeclared work

A French court ordered the maximum fine against food delivery company Deliveroo on Tuesday (19 April) for not hiring couriers as employees but as self-employed as the EU prepares its directive to clarify platform workers’ status. EURACTIV France reports.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Nathalie Weatherald]

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