EU plan to boost gig economy workers is latest blow to apps

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LONDON (AP) – The European Union has unveiled plans to improve conditions for the growing number of workers in the odd-job economy who could reclassify some as employees entitled to benefits, the latest setback for workers digital platforms that rely on independent entrepreneurs to deliver food and offer trips.

The draft rules presented by EU officials on Thursday aim to clarify the employment status of people employed by app-based companies such as the Uber ridesharing service and the food delivery company Deliveroo. Workers and platforms in the gig economy have fallen through the cracks of existing labor laws, and the measures envisioned by the 27-nation bloc, which would take years to come into force, are aimed at eliminating these gray areas.

App-based concert work platforms have exploded in the digital economy, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when demand for food delivery services skyrocketed. Apps provide short-term work for millions of people, but their rampant growth has also upended traditional models of work and business, leading to confrontations between companies and regulators around the world. The flexibility of working on stage is a selling point for many, but workers also complain that they earn less than the minimum wage once their expenses are tracked.

Under EU rules, a platform that meets at least two criteria will be considered an “employer” and people working for that company will be reclassified as “workers” with the right to minimum wage, paid vacation, unemployment and sickness benefits, pensions. and other advantages.

Criteria include whether an application decides pay levels; electronically supervises the execution of the work; restricts a worker’s freedom to choose his or her hours of work, to accept jobs or to use subcontractors; dictates the appearance and conduct of a worker with customers; or limits the ability of workers to create their own business or work for someone else.

Uber says it is determined to improve working conditions but is worried about the EU’s proposal “endangering thousands of jobs, crippling small businesses in the wake of the pandemic and damaging vital services on which consumers depend from all over Europe ”.

“All EU-wide rules should allow drivers and couriers to retain the flexibility we know they value most, while allowing platforms to introduce more protections and benefits,” a statement from the carpooling service said.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, estimates that some 5.5 million of the 28 million workers in the EU are wrongly classified as self-employed. The bloc has played a leading global role in cracking down on tech companies to ensure everything from workers’ rights to online safety.

Platforms can challenge the classification, but the onus will be on them to prove that they are not employers, the commission said.

“We need to make the most of the job creation potential of digital platforms,” ​​said Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights. “But we also need to make sure that these are quality jobs, which do not promote precariousness, so that the people working through them have security and can plan for their future.”

The proposed European rules are another blow to businesses in the odd-job economy in Europe. New laws or recent court rulings in Spain, the Netherlands and Great Britain require meal deliverers and transport service drivers to be granted employee status rather than being classified as self-employed.

In contrast, the scales have shifted in the opposite direction in the United States, where Uber and other app-based services have avoided an attempt in California this year to classify workers as employees.

The European Commission also wants to force work platforms for concerts to be more transparent about the algorithms used to manage workers so they can better understand how jobs are assigned and pay is set. People should be watching the algorithms and workers should be able to appeal any automated decisions, he said.

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