They deliver food at home, drive taxis or design projects remotely. In Europe there are 24 million online application workers and many of them live on low wages, without social protection or the possibility of unionizing and companies use them as disposable labor.
The European Commission wants to improve their working conditions, which is why it has opened a consultation with unions and companies focused on to their employment situation, collective representation and the so-called algorithmic management.
“There is a need for action because, well, this is an important part of our economy, a growing part of our economy. And this online economy cannot just thrive outside of the normal rules and normal protections that have been put in place for the normal economy. … It is a difficult issue because we have to find the right balance between the flexibility that this type of business model needs and the adequate protection to which people who work in this sector are entitled “, says the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit.
For trade unions, the EU needs to try to guarantee decent working conditions for platform workers, as well as their right to organize and bargain collectively. They ask the Commission to work to prevent false self-employed workers. In Spain, the recently approved Rider law obliges companies to regularize their workers.
“If we see that an algorithm is actually organizing the work, that the worker cannot set the prices himself, the rates himself, that he does not have the autonomy to do the task, there is enough evidence that he is not a self-employed worker. There is sufficient evidence that the platform actually organizes the employment relationship. That is why we think that that starting point has to be taken, that they are employed until proven otherwise “, says Ludovic Voet, of the European Trade Union Confederation.
But companies believe that it should be the responsibility of Member States to define the relationship between online platforms and workers. “In the European debate we must be careful not to go overboard on something that Member States can do better on their own. The reality is different across Europe. There are countries with a very binary approach to employment and self-employment, which are defined in States. members, pBut it is also the case that there are intermediate categories in several countries, so we must respect this diversity of solutions from the Member States“, defends Maxime Cerutti, from the business association Business Europe.
The digital platform economy has multiplied almost by five in the last 5 years and now it has an estimated value of 14,000 million euros. If the social partners choose not to negotiate jointly on working conditions, the Commission will present a legislative proposal at the end of the year.