Uber files reach the European Parliament
Social security for platform workers
VS – 11/2022
The European Parliament heard from Uber's former chief lobbyist Mark
MacGann end of October. As early as summer, the British newspaper The Guardian,
in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,
had analysed and published thousands of documents disclosed by him – the
so-called Uber files. The Uber files suggest that the company has
specifically courted top politicians in Europe to strengthen its market
power between 2013 and 2017.
The workers' labour rights were deliberately
disregarded. At EU level, for example, the Uber files have triggered an
investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) against the former EU
Vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes.
Hearing in view of proposed directive on platform work
New forms of
employment on digital labour platforms have become increasingly important
in recent years. Digital labour platforms are seen as an employment model with
a lot of innovative power and job-creating potential. At the same time, this
employment model raises new questions about labour and social protection, e.g.
about the distinction between self-employment and dependent employment, and
about the algorithmic management of platform workers' data. These aspects are
also at the heart of the draft
directive on improving working conditions in platform work presented by the
European Commission on 9 December 2021.
During the discussion of the draft directive in
the European Council and the European Parliament, the Uber files were published
in July. In line with this, the European Parliament's lead Committee on
Employment and Social Affairs heard the whistleblower and former chief lobbyist
of Uber in October.
Whistleblower: platform workers must be classified as dependent employees
Speaking to Members of Parliaments, MacGann said Uber had misled
the world about the benefits of the gig economy. In doing so, the company had
made targeted efforts to ensure that Uber drivers were not classified as
workers. Uber also paid researchers to distort findings to support Uber's
position on the employment status of platform workers. In the hearing, MacGann
called on the European Parliament to better protect Uber drivers and other
platform workers. This is because there is a clear imbalance of power between
the platform workers and the digital work platform.
The Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights,
Nicolas Schmit, highlighted the importance of MacGann's remarks and stressed
the importance of the European Commission's proposal for a directive on
platform work. In doing so, Schmit expressed the fear that the discussions in
the Council could dilute the rebuttable presumption for determining employment
status contained in the European Commission proposal. The aim of the proposed
directive was not to prevent the new economic model of digital labour
platforms. Instead, the social protection of workers should be guaranteed and
at the same time the development of new technologies should be made possible.
Parliamentarians and the European Commissioner Schmit stress the importance of MacGann's remarks
In the hearing, the rapporteur Elisabetta
Gualmini (S&D) said that the Uber files and MacGann's remarks underline the
importance of the two central issues of her report: the fight against false
self-employed platform workers and the opacity of the platform algorithms.
Shadow rapporteur Dennis Radtke (EPP) thanked MacGann and criticised the
disregard for workers by companies like Uber. Likewise, the shadow rapporteur
Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová (Renew), called Uber's entrepreneurial behaviour, as
evidenced by the Uber files, unacceptable.
This is how it continues
In recent weeks, the political groups in the
European Parliament had moved towards each other on contentious issues
concerning the status determination of the employment relationship of platform
workers, although no compromise had yet been reached. Discussions also continue
in the European Council. Czech's Council Presidency wants to present a
compromise text to the European Council in December, but it is still unclear
whether this will succeed.