Political influence at the expense of the employees

IF – 08/2022

The "Uber Files" currently being discussed at European level highlight the closeness that exists between corporate and political power in the European Union (EU). Members of Parliament (MEPs) who are part of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL) expressed outrage at the European lobbying carried out by Uber before the summer political recess.

The welfare of the workers would have taken second place to the aim of making more profit. Although it would now be hard to imagine the European landscape without these drivers, little attention was being paid to their needs.

A whistle-blower from within the company

More than 100,000 company files were leaked to various journalists by a former European Uber lobbyist that revealed the ethically questionable practices implemented by Uber. Even though Uber is based in San Francisco in the USA, it is still making huge profits here in Europe. Many bans against Uber's anti-competitive practises have been quickly lifted in various member states. Possibly because of the lobbying methods being used.

Politics in their sights

Senior politicians, such as Neelie Kroes, the former Dutch Vice-President of the European Commission, have helped them. She lobbied for Uber during her 18 months grace period after leaving the European Commission. Kroes, having being the Commissioner for Competition, was prohibited from lobbying companies during her grace period. The European Parliament is now calling for an investigation into the former commissioner to get her to answer the charges of violations of transparency and lobbying rules.

Planned changes

As a company, Uber has sought to erode worker’s rights for its own profit. Back in December 2021, the European Commission proposed a directive to improve the working conditions of platform workers. Political regulations covering the gig economy would be changed so that platform workers would be entitled to the right to social security under EU legislation. The EMPL will vote on the mandate for negotiations with member states in October. So changes in the platform economy are already on the horizon.