Gig economy news & analysis
 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 
Website | Twitter | | Subscribe

Is no law better than a bad law? Platform Work Directive latest

The Swedish presidency of the European Council has circulated its first proposal on the Platform Work Directive to member-states, and of course it has been leaked. It is a very similar text to the Czech proposal in December, with three out of seven criteria still required to trigger the presumption of employment. There is a minor change to clarify on what basis member-states can opt-out from the presumption of employment, which could potentially make it more difficult for pro-self employment states to avoid the presumption.

It's difficult to see why this proposal would change the minds of those member-states which opposed or abstained in December, when the Czech Presidency failed to secure a two-thirds majority. Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for jobs & social rights who was responsible for the initial European Commission text published in December 2021, has already said that he is "not extremely happy" with the Swedish proposal, which is EU bureaucrat speak for 'the Commission doesn't agree with it'. It will be officially discussed at an EU Council meeting on Monday [27 March].

It just so happens that the Gig Economy Project was in Brussels this week, addressing a European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) conference on platform work. There was talk of much else besides the Directive, but on that point the most interesting observation came from Martin Willems of Belgian union ACV-CSC United Freelancers. Willems talked about the Belgian platform work law, which came into effect in January this year, but has had zero effect in the real world: over 100 digital labour platforms in Belgium have all claimed that they do not meet the criteria established in the law for a presumption of employment, a criteria which is based very closely on the Commission's proposal. The Belgian labour ministry is apparently helpless in face of this resistance from platforms, doing absolutely nothing to try to enforce the presumption of employment.

This obviously raises the question: if the Belgian law is a dud, then why wouldn't the Commission's also flop, only this time across the whole of the EU? Asked by Willems about the failure of the Belgian law and what that means for the EU Directive, Ana Carla Pereira from the European Commission told the conference that while she was not aware of all of the details of the Belgian law, it was necessary that the Belgian authorities "enforce the law". What this strongly implied is that the problem is not with the text of the Belgian legislation nor the Commission's proposal, but with government's which do not have the will to deliver on it in practise. While there may be some truth to this in the case of Belgium (which is a complex coalition government) and indeed many other governments in Europe, it should be obvious that the stronger the legislative text, the harder it is for platforms to dodge the criteria and the easier it is for governments to enforce the law.

The Belgian fiasco should be the subject of an investigation by the European Commission, as it is as close as you can get to a test case of the Commission's proposal in practise - a test case that has failed. As Willems suggested in his question to Pereira, rather than continuing to trumpet the Commission text as the best compromise between the position of the Council and the Parliament, the Commission should reset on the basis of the knowledge that has now come to light. The obvious conclusion that such an investigation would surely draw is that setting-up criteria that can be dodged by platforms' and their highly paid lawyers is a fatal error, and that the European Parliament's text on the presumption of employment therefore has a lot more going for it.

Pereira said that while the Commission would continue to promote its own position, the realities of the trilateral negotiations to come is that it would have to focus on reaching an agreement, as the clock is ticking to get the Directive over the line before the end of the European Parliamentary term, with elections to take place in May 2024. It's worth considering at this point whether a bigger danger than no Directive would be a bad Directive, whereby the EU puts the current gig economy model onto a legislative footing across the continent, meaning it would no longer even be possible to challenge the platforms on bogus self-employment in the courts, as many unions currently do to good effect across the continent (the latest being in the Dutch Supreme Court on Friday).

Asked by GEP if no Directive would be better than a bad Directive, Pereira said that with very little national legislation in place, no Directive would mean a continuation of "the far west" where digital labour platforms remain a largely deregulated space across Europe. However, her own view (not necessarily the view of the European Commission) is that it would be fair to consider "anything below the current jurisprudence" as a bad Directive. Ludovic Voet, general secretary of the ETUC, was clearer, saying that if the number of criteria needed to trigger the employment status was set at "three or four", that would constitute a bad Directive, as all the platforms would find ways to avoid triggering the employment presumption. 

The Belgian misfire should be a warning shot ringing in the ears of all advocates of workers' rights in the gig economy. The European Commission's proposal - which could easily end up being the  compromise position between the EU Council and the European Parliament in trilateral negotiations - is evidently insufficient. While the aim must be to fight for the Parliament proposal, campaigners should be vigilant about a 'compromise' that ends up being worse than useless.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator


Gig Economy news round-up

  • JUST EAT TO SACK UK RIDERS IN RETURN TO SELF-EMPLOYED MODEL: Just Eat, Europe's biggest food delivery platform, has announced that it is going to lay-off 1,700 of its couriers in the UK and return to a self-employed model. Just Eat has touted itself as more ethical than its rivals after it began employing couriers across the continent in 2020, although mainly via sub-contractors. The axing of Just Eat's 'Scoober' service - where riders did set shifts, were given e-bikes or e-mopeds and had workers' rights like sick pay and holiday pay -  comes after the company's losses increased by €4.7 billion in its 2022 accounts, mainly due to the disastrous takeover of US delivery platform Grubhub, which the company is already trying to sell. CEO Jitse Groen has claimed that the continuation of the self-employed model puts the company at a competitive disadvantage with UK rivals like Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Just Eat has also moved back to a self-employed model in Ireland, Slovakia and France, excluding Paris. Groen claims to still back the presumption of employment in the EU Platform Work Directive, but Alex Marshall of the IWGB union said the announcement showed Just Eat was "no better than the others who chew up and spit out workers.” Read more here.
  • DUTCH SUPREME COURT FINDS DELIVEROO COURIERS ARE EMPLOYEES: The FNV union has called on the Dutch Parliament to intervene to ensure workers' rights for food delivery couriers, after the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that Deliveroo couriers are bog self-employed on Friday [24 March]. The Supreme Court verdict backed up that of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal and the Dutch Attorney General, finding that despite Deliveroo couriers having some freedom to choose when to work, in all other aspects their work correlated fully with employment status. The ruling attached minor importance to the possibility that Deliveroo couriers can substitute themselves for another worker, finding this happened in a very small minority of cases. In terms of work, wages and control, the riders are fully subordinate to the platform. Zakaria Boufangacha, FNV vice-chairman, said the verdict was "long-awaited and very justified" and of "much wider significance than Deliveroo alone". Boufangacha added that "the DBA Act, which is supposed to combat bogus self-employment, has not been enforced by the government for years" and called on "the Hague to really take action now". Read more here.
  • IRISH STATE POLICE ARRESTED OVER ALLEGED EXTORTION OF FOOD DELIVERY COURIERS: Four Dublin-based 'Gardaí' - Irish state police - officers have been arrested and suspended after an investigation by anti-corruption officers into alleged extortion of food delivery couriers. The riders were allegedly stopped and "taxed", usually for around €50 or less, as they worked on the streets of Dublin, with some paying over fears that they could be prosecuted for road traffic or immigration offences. The investigation began after a female courier made a complaint of theft after she was stopped by two men who claimed they were from Gardaí and conducted a search of her home. After the search, a number of items, including money, were alleged to be missing. After photos of the two men were circulated, one of them came forward to say he thought they were conducting a legitimate search of the property. A sergeant who is alleged to be the ring-leader of the extortion has still not been arrested. Read more here.
  • UBER FILES WHISTLEBLOWER GIVES EVIDENCE TO FRENCH HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Mark MacGann, Uber's former chief lobbyist in Europe who blew the whistle on the company last year in the Uber Files scandal, gave evidence to the Uber Files inquiry in the French House of Representatives on Thursday [23 March]. The inquiry is looking into how Uber established itself in France, after the Files revealed that Emmanuel Macron, then a cabinet minister in Francois Hollande's social-democratic government, had worked with the company to aid its illegal entry into the French market without the knowledge of his fellow Ministers. During the two-hour hearing, MacGann said that the French Government should reform its lobbying rules to limit corporate influence and should back a strong EU Platform Work Directive. Macron's government has been leading resistance to the presumption of employment in the Directive, arguing instead for its much-criticised "social dialogue" model, and MacGann said he was "worried" that the French Government was "supporting this dilution, and even driving this movement". MacGann said in the mid-2010s Uber was in "total and permanent illegality in France" with regards to tax, transport and social security laws, and that the company's claim at the time that it's 'UberPop' service was insured was a lie. Read more here.
  • FRENCH COURT BACKS PARIS CITY COUNCIL IN BID TO REGULATE 'DARK STORES': France's administrative court has ruled that the 'dark stores' which grocery delivery platforms like Getir and Flink use to store and distribute their products are warehouses under the urban planning code, paving the way for the Paris City Council to ban them from residential neighbourhoods. The ban will be a major blow to the platforms, which can increase their speed of delivery substantially by locating dark stores - of which around 60 have been established in Central Paris - close to consumers. "Victory!" Emmanuel Grégoire, the deputy mayor for urban planning, tweeted following the verdict. "These illegal warehouses will be sanctioned." Dark stores have often been set-up in former shop lots and have led to complaints from those living in their vicinity due to noise and access issues. Paris is just one of many major urban centres in Europe, also including Amsterdam and Barcelona, which are seeking to remove dark stores from residential neighbourhoods. Read more here.

On GEP this week


Two Flink couriers and Works Council founders have been fired, ostensibly for speaking publicly about poor working conditions. Is Flink any better than the scandal-ridden and now-defunct Gorillas? And does German labour law really protect workers who are in conflict with their bosses?
From around the web
Podcast: Delivery Charge: Form a Works Council in these six easy steps

Ajun John's podcast on how platform delivery workers are organising for fairer conditions of work in India where he is from, and in Germany, where he lives, kicks-off by looking at the role of the Works Council in gig worker organising in Germany.
Colombia: Labour Minister met with Rappi executives to present the bases of the labour reform

Latest from Colombia, where an ambitious platform work law is being resisted by Rappi, the biggest platform in the Latin American country (in Spanish).
The House of Couriers supports the fight of delivery people

Nora Kajjiou writes about Paris' House of Couriers in 'Le Bondy Blog'. Interestingly, 84% of the couriers who go to the House say they want to be employees (in French).

Upcoming events

- An open meeting will be held to respond to Just Eat cutting 1700 jobs in the UK. The meeting, on Monday 27 March at 3pm UK time, will be a chance for couriers to discuss their options and demands. Click here for details and to register.

- The Leeds Index of Platform Labour will launch its global database of platform worker resistance on 27 March at a hybrid event in London. Click here for full details.

- The UNI Global Union will host a hybrid event on 'dark stores' and app-based grocery delivery, 28 March in Brussels, Belgium, from 3-4.30pm. Click here for more details and to register. 

- Wage Indicator will host a webinar on women in web-based gig work on Friday 31 March, 2-3.30pm. 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.

And if you like the Gig Economy Project weekly newsletter, why not get your friends and colleagues to subscribe?
Here's the link.
You received this email because you subscribed to our list. You can unsubscribe at any time.

BRAVE NEW EUROPE (Unincorporated Not-For-Profit Association)
68 Boileau Road
SW13 9BP
United Kingdom
Powered by EmailOctopus