Published on :

24/10/2021

Category :

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ETUC KEY MESSAGES

The ETUC welcomes the first phase consultation of social partners under Article 154 TFEU on possible action addressing the challenges related to working conditions in platform work. Recent Court cases and administrative decisions have shown that the platforms are still in breach of the laws regarding the respect of workers' rights and recognise again and again the misclassification of workers as (bogus-) self-employed while the platform behaves, with the help of its algorithmic management tool, as an employer.

The ETUC has two objectives: 1. to win rights for non-standard workers whether they work online or offline (including those in platform companies) and 2. to make the digitalisation of the economy compatible with the employment relationship and the respect for fundamental workers' rights.

The ETUC’s answer is articulated around the following seven political priorities:

1. From the current situation where the most vulnerable in the relationship (workers) in platforms work often are treated as self-employed without benefiting from the autonomy of this status, we must move towards a presumption of employment status in general.

2. Reversal of the burden of proof by platforms, which will have to provide sound evidence that no employment relationship exists between them and workers in their respective platforms. 

3. A digital platform company is (just as a regular business) an employer, a (temporary work) agency or an intermediary. Platforms are not mere digital intermediaries, but they are in fact ‘companies’ endowed with a vast range of managerial prerogatives and powers and should therefore shoulder all the obligations that this status entails, including the function of employer when it applies. It will therefore be necessary to link these digital platform companies to their sector of activity and to the various provisions and regulations that exist there and have been negotiated in collective bargaining by the social partners.

4. The ETUC strongly opposes to the creation of a third status between workers and self-employed. Workers do not need a specific (and more limited) labour legislation which is different to the one which applies to workers.

5. A European initiative should cover all non-standard workers and workers in platform companies (including the self-employed) in their access to collective and individual rights. The ETUC considers that workers in platform companies are not a new category of workers per se because a musician, a rider, a journalist or a cleaner are in the same situation in matters of the lack of social protection; the difficulties to organise themselves and bargain collectively. If an initiative targets only workers in platform companies, what would allow to grant them more rights than on one hand a domestic worker (non-standard worker) or on the other hand a solo self-employed in the offline economy? This would be a de facto creation of a third status.

6. The scope of an initiative on platform work should cover both on-location and online labour platforms. There is no clear distinction in the operation of these platforms which can justify avoiding to regulating them. Digitalisation of the economy and the development of telework reinforce the need to frame a future on work where digital labour platform comply with the labour and social rights. If we fail in this objective, companies in a range of industries could use the opportunity to undermine employment protections. 

7. There is a need for a joint and coherent European action in full respect to national industrial relation systems as most platforms are multinational companies. ETUC proposals (presumption of employment relationship & reversal of burden of the proof, obligations of platforms as companies and employers) do not need changes in the definition of a worker set by Member States and thus respects the principle of subsidiarity and the autonomy of social partners.

The ETUC has high expectations for the EU initiative on platform work. Lack of action leaves millions of workers without access to their basic rights. Inappropriate legislative action, allowing platforms to continue to violate these rights, would have disastrous effects on workers and the world of work. If our redlines are not respected and the latter option appears to be the one chosen, the trade union movement will take its responsibility to prevent this scenario.

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Please find the full reply online here or download it in Pdf here.