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Where are we now and what's left to go with the Platform Work Directive?

We are sure you have heard about the Council of the EU's Platform Work Directive agreement by now. On Monday [12 June], the 27 member-states finally settled on a position which was a year and a half and three presidencies (France, Czech Republic and Sweden) in the making. You can read our full report on the agreement and the reaction to it here.

In this post, we will limit ourselves to an analysis of where we are now and what challenges are left for the Platform Work Directive to become EU law.

Firstly, the text of Council's position is, as we had suspected it would be, defined by its derogations. Member-states do not have to apply the presumption of employment to "tax, criminal and social security proceedings", but can if they want to. They do not have to apply the presumption of employment at all if national authorities are "verifying compliance with or enforcing legislation on their own initiative". The text increased the threshold for triggering the presumption of employment from needing two out of five criteria to needing three out of seven, an increase which makes it harder for the presumption to be triggered, but it also makes it clear that member states can "introduce more favourable provisions" such as "a lower threshold for triggering the presumption". So it's a Platform Work Directive à la carte proposal.

It's likely that this pick n' mix approach was the only way of reconciling the deep divisions between the member-states over the question of employment status. Three statements were published after the agreement, one from the eight 'blocking minority' of states which had been pursuing a strong presumption of employment to make it clear they weren't very happy but wanted to keep the "legislative process on track", and two from Lithuania and France to express their view that they think a 'social dialogue' approach is still the best means of protecting platform workers, with the latter stating that "France...intends to preserve its national model", where platform workers are not employed. If it wasn't clear already, no member-states have changed their mind during this year and a half of negotiation, and have only compromised begrudgingly.

If the Council's derogations remain in the final draft, we can be pretty sure that the Platform Work Directive will not establish a unified approach to the question of employment status in platform work, which was the initial purpose of the Directive. On the other hand, the platform workers' movement will still have room to press for as strong as possible presumption of employment in each country, and at the end of the day it's at the national level where governments are elected and workers have most power to press political demands. 

Secondly, it's clear that the next step in the process, the inter-institutional 'trilogue' negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to agree on a final text, will not be straight forward. There is a large distance between what the Parliament and the Council have proposed on the presumption of employment. Something will have to give, and it's almost certain that both sides will have to make concessions for a text to be agreed. 

One wildcard in the trilogues will be the Spanish Presidency of the Council, which begins in July. As President of the Council, Spain will have a particularly powerful role to play in shaping the Council's negotiating position, but from 23 July there may be a new government as the Spanish General Election takes place that day. Spain could swing from being the most pro-employment rights' state in the EU, as it is currently (Spain's 'Riders Law' is similar to the European Parliament proposal for a general presumption of employment) to being one of the most anti-employment rights' state's, with the right-wing PP and far-right Vox - likely coalition partners - both actively against employment status for platform workers. Watch this space.

So there are still twists and turns left to go in this very long and winding road which is the Platform Work Directive. But at least we can now see the finish line.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

Gig Economy news round-up

  • CYPRUS UNION CONDEMNS "RACIST AND VIOLENT ATTACK" ON FOOD DELIVERY COURIER: The Cypriot hospitality union Peo has called for the group who violently attacked a Pakistani food delivery courier last weekend to be severely punished. "Once again…workers in this sector become victims of racist and violent attacks," the union said, adding that the attack in the city of Limassol is not the first, with similar incidents in the capital, Nicosia. The rider was robbed by a group of young people armed with knives and bars, who took the food and his moped. When the rider returned later to the scene with three friends, all of Pakistani origin, they were attacked by another group with clubs. Two of the rider's friends had to go to hospital and received treatment.  Seven people, including five minors, have been arrested for assault. Peo say they are working on a collective agreement for food delivery couriers in the southern European country. Read more here
  • UBER EATS TO CLOSE IN ITALY: Uber Eats has announced that it's shutting down in Italy, stating that the move was "in line with our efforts to focus on markets where we have opportunities for sustainable growth." CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said it will only invest in markets where it can be the largest or second largest player. The company is currently third place in Italy's food delivery space, behind Glovo and Just Eat. Uber Eats riders in Italy are hired on an independent contractor basis and thousands are now expected to lose their work, while 50 employees will be fired. Francesca Re David of the CGIL union said: "It is not acceptable to leave workers and workers without any income starting next month." She added: "The action we have taken as a union to support these workers will need to continue stronger than before. We will also call into question the Ministry of Labour to ask to intervene on Uber and to act on the current regulations on work via the platform." Uber also announced that it is pulling its ridehail operations out of the Israeli market. Read more here
  • BARCELONA TAXIS IN 'SLOW MARCH' TO DEFEND VTC REGULATION: Barcelona's majority taxi union Elité Taxi once again brought the city centre to a stand-still through a 'slow march' of taxis which sought to lay down a marker after the ruling on the Barcelona Metropolitan Area's regulation of ridehail (VTCs) by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) last week. The CJEU struck down the 1 VTC for every 30 taxis ratio, stating that such a restriction had to be justified on the basis of "the general interest", not the economic needs of the taxi sector. Elité Taxi said they were "very satisfied" with the ruling as they believe Barcelona's restriction on VTCs can be justified on that basis, but wanted to organise a strike to make sure the message was clear that they wouldn't accept a downgrading of the regulation in the Catalan capital. "We ask that order be restored because we all know that elections are coming and we don't know who will rule next," Tito Álvarez, Elité Taxi Barcelona leader, said, referring to the upcoming Spanish General Election on 23 July. He added: "By now thousands of authorisations are being requested and this can get out of hand. We are fighting for the survival of the taxi and for the right to mobility." Read more here.
  • AMSTERDAM CITY COUNCIL PULLED OUT OF DUTCH GROCERY DELIVERY 'COVENANT': A deal between the four biggest Dutch municipalities (Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam) and the four major grocery delivery operators in the country (Getir, Gorillas, Flink and Thuisbezorgd) fell through after Amsterdam City Council pulled out. The deal would have included a standard of behaviour for riders, investment in cycling training and good equipment, and a platform for municipalities and delivery companies to communicate with one another. The Amsterdam City Council decided in last November to not go ahead with signing the 'covenant' because "the agreements were not strong enough in terms of content" and "lawsuits are pending against a number of flash delivery drivers". The Department of Spatial Planning in the municipality in particular had concerns due to the fact that they are still in conflict with some Q-commerce platforms about shutting down some of their 'dark stores' and thus thought signing the covenant would send the wrong signal. A spokesperson added that they would consider signing independent agreements with individual grocery delivery platforms in the future. Read more here.
  • WOLT TO INTRODUCE FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY IN FINLAND: Food delivery platform Wolt has announced that it is introducing facial recognition technology to identify the identity of its food delivery couriers in Finland, following in the path of other platforms operating in Europe like Uber Eats. Recent media stories in Finland have highlighted large numbers of undocumented workers delivering for Wolt, the company which was founded in Finland and is now owned by American platform DoorDash. "In practice, courier partners occasionally receive a request to take a photo of themselves, which is compared to the identity document received from them at the beginning of the assignment relationship," Wolt explained. Microsoft's facial recognition technology, used by Uber Eats, has been criticised for miss-identifying black and minority ethnic people disproportionately, a problem that Microsoft itself has admitted. There have also been numerous reports of of undocumented workers finding ways around facial recognition technology. It's unclear what type of software Wolt plans to use. Read more here

In GEP this week

EU member-states agree Platform Work Directive position

Both the platform lobby and unions reacted critically to the Council’s Platform Work Directive position.
From around the web
Food delivery apps are getting lost in transit

Podcast exploring last week's investigation in the Sunday Times on the sub-letting of riders accounts to undocumented migrants in the UK.
NYC Food Delivery Workers Secure Landmark Minimum Pay Rate

Claudia Irizarry Ponte reports for 'The City' on New York's pay deal for food delivery couriers, a compromise that neither platforms nor worker representatives are full happy with.
From Glovo to Uber: Five things you should know about the platform economy

Felipe Corredor, Sergi Cutillas, Núria Soto, Isabel Chacón and Tito Álvarez of the Observatory of Algorithms, Work and Society in Spain write in 'Critic' on what you need to know about the gig economy (in Catalan).

Upcoming events

- Manchester City Council, Lancaster University and University of York are holding an event titled 'Work and the city: understanding the impact of gig economy platforms' at the People's History Museum, 21 June 12.30-2.30pm. Click here for full details.

- More than 100 migrant riders in Berlin demanding unpaid wages from Wolt after the disappearance of one of its sub-contractors will protest on Monday 19 June, 3pm at Kottbusser Tor. Click here for details.

- 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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