Tories set to fight over platform worker directive, mobilize with industry –

Conservative MEPs from the European People’s Party (EPP) are preparing their counter-offensive against the rapporteur’s push for strict job protections for platform workers, by joining forces with industry.

EPP lawmakers are not so happy with Elisabetta Gualmini’s draft report on the Platform Workers Directive, a landmark proposal to regulate working conditions in the gig economy.

In her copy, made public this week, the Social Democrat MEP made significant changes to the initial proposal aimed at strengthening worker protections, moving the criteria determining employment status to the preamble of the – non-binding – text. and thus approaching automatically classifying platform workers as employees.

“The Commission’s proposal has raised enough concerns regarding both legal issues and possible negative effects on employment and competition in the market. Unfortunately, the Gualmini report only deepens existing concerns and raises new ones,” EPP MP Radan Kanev told EURACTIV, calling the removal of the criteria “scandalous” and adding that it renders “the presumption practically ‘ irrefutable'”.

The EU executive’s proposal introduced the notion of a “rebuttable presumption”, a provision that would automatically classify workers who originally meet certain criteria as employees, unless the platform is able to prove otherwise.

“Under the current proposal, all platform work is considered employment status, virtually wiping out freelance work and freelancers from the market,” Kanev said, pointing out that it goes “in many ways against the common sense and the very heart of the social market economy”.

Conservative MEPs fear the proposal could effectively destroy the platform economy market and Gualmini’s draft report departs further from the original aims of the directive.

“The draft proposal even excludes the possibility for platform workers to opt out on the basis of the existence of a collective agreement signed by the digital platforms which I considered a viable alternative to the automatic application of the legal presumption,” MEP Miriam Lexman told EURACTIV, noting that this “would lead to a situation where around 20 million platform workers in the EU would automatically be reclassified.”

These arguments echo the complaints of the platforms themselves, who protest against the directive, which they accuse of not responding to the real issues.

The industry “calls on the European Parliament and the Council to take into account the specificities of the VTC sectors and the voice of drivers”, reads a press release from Move EU, an organization bringing together Bolt, FREE NOW and Uber.

“This is a directive that does not offer any solution as to how to improve the working conditions of platform workers and only focuses on the employment status of drivers and couriers,” said Aurélien. Pozzana, head of public policy at Bolt.

Pozzana argues that the majority of platform workers do not want employee status and warns that the directive could negatively impact the market with consequences for consumers.

On the other hand, what the platforms see favorably is the French approach aimed at bringing together the platforms and the workers within the framework of a “social dialogue”.

Together with the EPP MEPs, the platforms organized a workshop on Wednesday May 11 on the impact that the proposal could have on the market.

“The platforms are panicking,” said leftist MEP Leila Chaibi. Chaibi notes that the platforms did not find a sympathetic ear with Denis Radtke, who is following the file in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee for the EPP, hence the reason why they “went knocking on other doors “.

“We had a good base of work with the Commission that we intended to improve” and the Gualmini project “further improved this base,” said Chaibi, pointing out that the platform workers she met originally “wanted to be independent but, after a while, realized they weren’t”.

It now intends, through amendments, to secure the fact that this presumption applies by default and that the criteria only apply in the event of a dispute, fearing a different interpretation by the Member States.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Nathalie Weatherald]

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