Sunday, July 21, 2024

EU to treat 5.5 million Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Bolt and other gig economy workers as employees

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European Union countries reached a compromise Monday that breaks a logjam on planned rules over workers’ rights in the gig economy by keeping the most important decisions in the hands of member states.

The agreement marks a turning point in the EU’s years-long efforts to set clearer employment rights for millions of delivery couriers and drivers who get work from online platforms, such as those offered by Uber Technologies Inc. and Deliveroo Plc. The issue has pitted businesses and unions against each other in court battles around the world.

The latest proposal from Belgium, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, would allow individual countries to decide when a worker should count as an employee and qualify for benefits like sick pay, after a previous attempt that would have set bloc-wide employment criteria failed to get the necessary support in December.

EU jobs commissioner Nicolas Schmit hailed the agreement as a “major step forward” in an emailed statement, though businesses affected have criticized the planned rules. 

Move EU, a trade group that represents Bolt, Uber and Free Now, said it regrets the decision, which “fails to achieve a harmonized approach across the EU, creating even more legal uncertainty for ride-hailing drivers,” according to a statement from the group’s chair, Aurelien Pozzana. 

A statement by Uber said the decision would “maintain the status quo today, with platform worker status continuing to be decided country-to-country and court-to-court” and also called for workers to maintain independence while receiving employment protections. 

Unions, however, reacted more positively to the agreement. Ludovic Voet, of the European Trade Union Confederation, said in a statement that “millions of people working through digital platforms will no longer be cheated out of minimum wages, sick pay, holiday pay and social security” and called on EU countries “to prepare for rapid implementation.”

The regulation would impact how workers can be managed by digital platforms. It sets limits on the use of algorithms, banning the firing of workers based on decisions made by automated systems.

The so-called platform work directive still needs to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and EU member states, after which countries will have two years to incorporate the rules into their national legislation, according to a press release

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