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End-game for Platform Work Directive in sight

The Council of the EU, the body which represents the member-states, has been trying and failing to come to a position on the Platform Work Directive for one year. This week, there has finally been some movement which looks like it may be about to break the deadlock. 

Sweden, which holds the presidency of the Council until July, made a fourth proposal last weekend which sought to provide guarantees to Spain, the state which is most in favour of a strong presumption of employment, and to France, the state which is most against a presumption of employment. We think the compromise the Swedes are trying to achieve is a text which can accommodate Spain and France by not weakening the national legal/regulatory provisions of the former while not imposing an employment model onto the latter.

In any case, the new text did not lead to an agreement at a meeting on Wednesday [31 May], but there were reports that some of the pro-presumption of employment states - including the Netherlands and Luxembourg - had agreed to support the text, dividing the 'blocking minority' of states which had been preventing a two-thirds majority on the Council. The hold up now appears to be on the pro-platform lobby side, led by France. Thomas Göransson, international secretary of Swedish trade union Unionen, has said that "according to my calculations, France now holds the key to reaching a deal. If Emmanuel Macron say 'Oui' it's a done deal." Sweden is now preparing a fifth text which they hope will be ratified at an EU Council meeting on 12 July.

A clear sign that we are reaching the decisive days for the Directive is that the CEOs of five digital labour platforms, Bolt, Delivery Hero, Uber, Deliveroo and Wolt, published a letter in the FT on Friday [2 June] criticising the Platform Work Directive for focusing "almost exclusively on who is an employee and who is not", questioning whether the EU was about to "sacrifice the chance to improve the situation for the sake of a quick agreement" and calling for a "progressive self-employment framework". The platform lobbyists will be working over-time right now. 

Spain does not appear to be one of the state's to have budged yet, but there may be more incentive for the Spanish Government to do so due to the surprise announcement of a General Election on 23 July. Spain's election was supposed to be in December, but Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez decided to move it forward after disappointing local election results last Sunday [28 May]. The Spanish takeover the presidency of the Council of the EU from the Swedes in July, but polls suggest it's highly possible that the centre-left/left coalition government will be replaced by a centre-right/far-right one just a few weeks later. That would be a game-changer in terms of the Spanish presidency's approach to the Platform Work Directive, instantly moving the Spanish from being the most pro-presumption of employment state to one of the closest to the platform lobby. 

Alberto Feijoó, leader of the main centre-right opposition party in Spain, Partido Popular (PP), has already promised to scrap all legislation passed in the Sánchez era if he gets his hands on power, and the controversial 'Riders Law', which established a presumption of employment for food delivery couriers, would likely be amongst the first to go. This will be good news for Spain's largest food delivery platform Glovo, which has racked up over €200 million in fines by refusing to comply with the Riders Law. Many of those fines are being appealed and one presumes the company, which was bought by German multi-national Delivery Hero two years ago, is playing for time in the hope that a change of government will help them out. 

Certainly, there is good reason to believe PP, a party notoriously close to big business, would be quick to come to Glovo's aid. Despite the company's illegality, leading PP figures, including controversial regional President of the community of Madrid Isabel Díaz Ayuso, have been more than happy to team up with Glovo in PR exercises. PP has even proposed legislation in the past to regulate platform work which used the exact same language as that of the platform lobby. If PP were to enter government it would almost certainly be alongside far-right party Vox, which established a 'trade union' called 'Solidaridad', which has mainly been used to agitate against the Riders Law. 

GEP will have a close eye on how the Spanish elections play out, but in any case the Council of the EU's platform work text may now be wrapped-up well before 23 July. That will then precipitate trilateral negotiations between the Council, the Commission and the Parliament on a final text. The Directive is moving towards its end-game.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

Gig Economy news round-up

  • UBER SEES GMB UNION AGREEMENT AS MODEL FOR EUROPE: Uber's recognition agreement with the UK union GMB, signed in 2021, is seen by the Californian ridehail giant as a blueprint to follow across Europe, PoliticoEurope reports. Emma O'Dwyer, who was one of those behind the GMB deal, has now been given the job of "labour relations" for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, having previously held the same job for the UK, and will try to rollout the same strategy. The GMB agreement, a first of its type internationally, was criticised by some unions for not including collective bargaining over pay and conditions for drivers. Uber has since signed a recognition agreement with the International Transport Federation (ITF) which side-steps the question of whether drivers should be employed, with an ITF affiliate in Belgium, UBT-FGTB, also signing an agreement with the platform last year. Uber is also seeking to get taxis across Europe registered on its app, and is seeking to build alliances with municipal authorities around the question of transport sustainability. Read more here
  • GETIR TO CUT JOBS IN SPAIN: Europe's leading grocery delivery platform is set to make more job cuts in Spain. The Turkish-founded firm has not made it clear how many of its 1,000 riders and pickers in the southern European country will be subject to the collective redundancy, but claimed that the moved was necessary to ensure a "sustainable business model". Getir's Spanish subsidiary has so far been subsidised by the main company to the tune of €76 million, but still made a loss of €21.7 million in its first full year in the country. At this time last year Getir announced 4,500 job cuts worldwide in response to the downturn in demand from the inflation crisis. Getir bought up one of its main European rivals, Gorillas, in December last year, but a new funding round in April, where the company raised $500 million, valued the firm at $6.5 billion, almost half of its valuation after it last attracted new VC investment in March 2022. Read more here.
  • UBER EATS CHIEF CLAIMS HE HAS "NO EXACT MEMORY" OF KILL SWITCH REQUEST: Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber's vice-president who runs the company's Uber Eats operation, told the French Senate's Uber Files inquiry last week that he has "no exact memory" of requesting that a 'Kill Switch' was used to prevent government inspectors accessing Uber data. The claim comes despite the Uber Files revelations proving that Gore-Coty sent an e-mail on 2 April 2015, when he was Uber's regional general manager for western Europe, which stated: "Kill Switch in AMS asap please”. The evidence of the Kill Switch, which was used in at least six European countries, was one of the most shocking revelations of the Uber Files, tens of thousands of documents and messages released by the company's former chief lobbyist in Europe turned whistleblower Mark MacGann. Gore-Coty said that the company "do not deny" using the kill switch, adding: "I act in good faith when I effectively say I don’t remember which email I sent when […]. If you have evidence that I sent such an email [to action a kill switch], then I’ll be ready to recognise its authenticity”. Uber say the kill switch was abandoned after current CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, took over in 2017. Read more here.
  • BOLT FOOD TO SHUT DOWN IN SWEDEN: Estonian multi-modal platform Bolt has shut down its food delivery operations in Sweden. An email on 29 May confirmed that the company will end its operations in the Scandinavian country on 25 June. “We are closing down for business reasons," Jens Öhgren, Bolt's press officer for the Nordics, said. "If we get the opportunity in the future, of course we want to see if we can start up again. But right now the decision is not to continue in Sweden." The change will not alter Bolt's micromobility and ridehail offers in the country. Bolt's Swedish riders, who are hired on an independent contractor basis, were told by the company that they will get their deposit back for their bags if they're returned in "excellent condition". Bolt Food has been competing with DoorDash-owned Wolt and Delivery Hero-owned Foodora in Sweden, and the company's CEO Markus Villig claimed recently that Bolt's multiple strands was a strength. "All five could separately be multibillion-dollar companies in the future," he said. Read more.  
  • SERBIAN GIG ECONOMY GROWS BY 20% IN ONE YEAR, STUDY FINDS: The Centre for Public Policy Research in Serbia has published a study on the country's gig economy, finding that it had grown by 20% over the past 12 months. The detailed study also found that the average hourly wage grew by 9.9%, with the inflation rate at 12% in 2022. While just 32.7% of gig workers in Serbia are female, 41% of new entrants over the past 12 months were women. However, women earn just 25.6% of the total income made on the platforms. While women were more likely to use platforms for additional income rather than full-time, they also had a lower per hour pay rate, at 19.2 US$, versus 22.2 US$ for men. An increasing number of workers in high-paid professions were also using digital labour platforms in Serbia, such as Upwork. A third of Serbian gig workers work in the field of multimedia and creative services, the largest single skill type recorded. Read more here
From around the web
Paper: The evolution of platform gig work, 2012-2021

Paper by Andrew Garin, Emilie Jackson, Dmitri K. Koustas and Alicia Miller provides a detailed picture of the size of the gig economy in the US over the nine years analysed.
We ordered over $100 of delivery. Here’s how much the restaurants, drivers and apps made

Hamza Shaban, Faiz Siddiqui, Alexis Arnold and Joe Fox look at how much of the cost of food delivery orders from different platforms go towards the various parties: the restaurant, the courier and the platform.
“Nobody’s really regulating it!” – an interview with Thelma Efua Quaye & Funda Ustek-Spilda

Jan Ruebel interviews Thelma Efua Quaye of Smart Africa and Funda Ustek-Spilda of Fairwork about how to regulate the fast moving gig economy.

Upcoming events

- A 'tech for good' festival, an alternative conference to London Tech Week, hosted by Outlandish and Space4 will take place in London on Friday 16 June. It will including sessions on 'def-EAT-ing the gig economy' and 'Platform capitalism? What about platform socialism?'. Click here for full details and to register.

- The Platform Labor Project and the Global Digital Cultures Initiative are holding a hybrid international conference on 'Global Perspectives on platforms, labour and social re-production', at the University of Amsterdam, 27-28 June. Details here

Know of upcoming events we should be highlighting? Let us know at

Get Involved

The Gig Economy Project is a media network for gig workers and we welcome contributions from workers, writers, academics, activists - anyone who wants to stand up for workers' rights in the gig economy.

If you would like to write for the site, discuss arranging an interview with GEP, or simply have information about developments in the gig economy in Europe you think we should be aware of, get in touch. 

Contact project co-ordinator Ben Wray at or send a direct message to the Twitter: @project_gig.

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