Platform workers: liberal, conservative MEPs align to fight centre-left’s proposal

After voicing a lot of concerns on socialist MEP Elisabetta Gualmini's approach to the platform workers directive, the conservative lawmakers take the offensive, according to the list of amendments they filed and obtained by EURACTIV.  [MOZCO Mateusz Szymanski/Shutterstock]

Lawmakers from Renew Europe and European People’s Party have filed similar amendments to the platform workers directive in a bid to push back against the rapporteur’s draft report.

Since the European Parliament’s rapporteur, the social-democrat MEP Elisabetta Gualmini, published her draft report, conservative lawmakers have vocally opposed her approach to the text.

After voicing their concerns on provisions that, in their view, could lead to the death of the gig economy, the centre-right took the offensive, presenting numerous amendments, obtained by EURACTIV, that would radically change Gualmini’s text.

EPP MEPs filed amendments to the Commission’s proposal in three batches, possibly suggesting different priorities within the committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) group.

“All is done in absolute coordination”, MEP Miriam Lexmann told EURACTIV, stressing that all of her colleagues are on the same line and that split is mostly the result of “internal discussions”.

“We must have a balanced approach, and we need to save the flexibility as it is something the workers don’t want to lose”, she added, summing up the conservatives’ position.

Conservatives prepare to battle on platform workers directive, rally up with industry

Conservative MEPs from the European People’s Party (EPP) are preparing their counter-offensive against the rapporteur’s push for tight employment protection for platform workers, joining forces with the industry.

Legal presumption and criteria

At the centre of the debate is the rebuttable presumption of employment, a notion that would place on platforms the burden of proving that the worker is not an employee. The European Commission proposed to trigger such presumption under certain conditions, defined in a list of criteria.

In her draft report, Gualmini generalised the legal presumption by making the Commission’s criteria mere guidelines. This approach was not well received by conservative MEPs, who feared it would automatically reclassify millions of workers, even those legitimately self-employed.

Radtke suggests that the legal presumption “shall not lead to an automatic determination of all persons performing platform work to be in an employment relationship”.

Leading MEP pushes for tight employment protection in platform workers directive

Centre-left lawmaker Elisabetta Gualmini has significantly expanded provisions for platform workers to ask for employee status and the human review of algorithm management in her draft report.

In the original proposal, two out of five criteria had to be met for the presumption to be triggered. EPP lawmaker Sara Skyttedal now suggests that a “majority” of criteria needs to be fulfilled and “without prejudice to collective agreements” while tightening the criteria themselves.

“The use of only two criteria would reclassify essentially all platform workers automatically, contrary to what Parliament agreed to in the Brunet [initiative] report”, she justified, referring to a resolution MEPs adopted by a very broad majority last September.

A group of other EPP lawmakers, coordinated by Miriam Lexmann, made perhaps the most radical proposal introducing a “Code of Conduct” as “a form of self-regulation focused on improving working conditions of genuine self-employed persons performing platform work including their social protection.”

This non-binding approach is meant to encourage platforms to find agreements on improving working conditions of the “genuine self-employed” and shall provide for “monitoring and evaluation of the achievement of the objectives aimed at” and for “effective enforcement including effective and proportionate sanctions”

MEPs push to shape working conditions of the gig economy

The European Parliament adopted by an overwhelming majority a resolution on social protection for platform workers, anticipating key parts of an upcoming EU legislative proposal expected to come out before the end of the year.

Despite the scattered amendments, conservative MEPs are generally pushing in the same direction, making a case for more collective bargaining and agreements and reinforcing the role of trade unions.

They also want to stick with the European executive approach regarding voluntary benefits like social protection, accident insurance or training opportunities not being regarded while assessing the employment relationship – unlike Gualmini’s draft report, where it has been removed.

Interestingly, Ratdke filed another amendment protecting platforms from being “required to disclose algorithms or any information that, with reasonable certainty, would result in the enabling of deception of consumers or consumers harm through the manipulation of the system”, as the directive also aims at addressing the algorithmic management of workers.

Broader coalition in the making

The direction the EPP wants to take is echoed in the amendments submitted by Renew shadow rapporteur Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová, which EURACTIV has seen. “We are going in the same direction”, laying the foundations for better negotiations”, Lexmann said.

“It is important to stress that the legal presumption of an employment relationship must not lead to an automatic classification of all persons performing platform work” and that “genuinely self-employed are able to remain so and can continue to access work through platforms”, Ďuriš Nicholsonová added to an original recital of the proposal.

Like her conservative colleagues, she wants to move from two fulfilled criteria needed to trigger the presumption to a “majority”.

She also wants to encourage more social dialogue and collective bargaining and keeps the voluntary provision of benefits out of the discussion when assessing the employment relationship.

This EPP-Renew alliance could find allies among European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). MEP Margarita de la Pisa Carrión put forward a new recital stressing that “the free choice of a person performing platform work to be self-employed in agreement with the platform should always be respected”, also calling to encourage more collective bargaining.

While sharing the same priorities, de la Pisa Carrión proposes to take the issue from the other side, suggesting the contractual relationship between a worker and a platform be legally presumed to be a self-employed relationship and wouldn’t apply if a majority of the criteria are met.

The amendments are now expected to be discussed in the committee in July or September.

Platform workers: French presidency clings to criteria approach

The French Presidency of the EU Council suggests not to stray too far from the Commission’s proposal regarding the determination of the status of platform workers but could share the same ambition as the European Parliament regarding algorithmic management.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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