What makes the gig economy so effective

Gig economyEU starts initiative against exploitation in platform work

The EU Commission is considering legal measures to better protect platform workers from exploitation. It should be about the question of whether platforms like Uber and Deliveroo have to employ their workers, whether they can set up works councils and unions, but also how much monitoring by algorithms should be allowed in the workplace. The EU is advising trade unions and employers on this, as the Commission announced on Wednesday.

More than 24 million people in Europe have so far offered their labor via platforms, and for around three million the gig economy is even the main source of income, estimates the EU Commission.

The term gig economy encompasses various forms of platform work in which people originally offered isolated services - so-called gigs - via online services. In the case of delivery or chauffeur services, however, the platforms today often offer constant employment. So far, however, less than half of the EU countries have their own laws for this type of work, according to the commission

In Germany and most other countries, for example, drivers are not employed by taxi and delivery services, and there are repeated complaints about working conditions. Delivery services boomed during the pandemic, but corporations do not always pass their economic success on to their workforce.

Statutory information obligation?

The EU initiative aims to target all work that is mediated via platforms. A new EU law could, for example, ensure that labor law is enforced where workers should actually be employed. To this end, platforms could be legally obliged to grant supervisory authorities access to information for labor law controls.

Working conditions should also become fairer, for example through a statutory provision for platforms to provide precise information about the expected duration and payment for work orders. There must also be an effective option for employees to object to algorithmic decisions. According to the EU document, this could also reduce the risk of discrimination through algorithms.

The Commission is now submitting the possible measures to the social partners as part of a consultation process. Together with trade unions and employers: proposals for possible legal measures or recommendations could be worked out, according to Brussels.

Lobbying from California to Brussels

How platform work should be dealt with is a political issue in many places. In California, a November referendum overturned a law that would have forced companies like Uber and Lyft to hire their drivers. The referendum was preceded by intensive corporate lobbying.

However, it set a setback for Uber in Great Britain. There the highest court ruled that the taxi service did not just provide services to its drivers. Rather, they should be viewed as employees.

Platforms such as Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb are also lobbying in Brussels. Their main concern is to use their "innovative" services to escape the rules that apply to their competition in the conventional taxi, delivery or rental business. This was the conclusion reached in 2019 by the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory and the Austrian Chamber of Labor. The lobbying from the gig economy is only just beginning and will continue to increase, according to the conclusion. The Commission's deliberations on legal measures should only accelerate this.

About the author

Alexander Fanta

As the Brussels correspondent of netzpolitik.org, Alexander reports on the digital policy of the European Union. He writes about new laws and does investigative research on large technology companies and their lobbying. He is co-author of the study "Medienmäzen Google" on the group's journalism funding. In 2017 Alexander was a fellow at the Reuters Institute for Journalism Research at Oxford University, where he researched automation in journalism. Before that he was a foreign policy journalist for the Austrian news agency APA. E-mail:[email protected] (PGP). Twitter:@FantaAlexx. WhatsApp / Threema: +32483248596.
Published 02/24/2021 at 12:58 PM