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'¿Dónde está Yolanda Díaz?': Platform Work Directive latest

The latest trilogue was held on Wednesday [8 November] on the troublesome question of the Platform Work Directive, the legislation that the EU can't seem to make a decision about.

'Agence Europe' reports that the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU asked the European Parliament (EP) negotiators "to find a way to accept its vision of the presumption of salaried status for platform workers". Which sounds less like a negotiation and more like an ultimatum. On the crux question of the presumption of employment, one source told Agence Europe that the Council "is mainly asking the EP to tell it how it can adapt and ultimately accept the Council's position, which will not change".

As a reminder, the EP's rapporteur on the Directive, Elisabetta Gualmini MEP, had put forward a compromise proposal weeks before Wednesday's trilogue. This meeting was supposed to be the Council's response to that proposal. It sounds like the response was a very polite but firm: 'Definitely not'. 

A suggestion of that arrived a few hours before the trilogue meeting, when Leïla Chaibi MEP, who represents The Left group in the European Parliament on platform work, tweeted that the Council had sent out "a sham compromise proposal" which "does not change a word from its initial position", a move which Chaibi described as "a provocation" and "a spit in the face of Parliament and workers".

"The Parliament is not a doormat but the co-legislator of the EU," she added.

What is curious about this situation is that the Spanish Government is the most in favour of a presumption of employment along the lines proposed by the EP out of all European member-states. We know this because the Rider Law in Spain, introduced over two years ago, has already established a general presumption of employment in the food delivery sector. The European Parliament's original proposal was essentially the extension of that approach across the gig economy as a whole. Also, the Spanish Government was one of five member-states to abstain on the Council's proposal, issuing a joint statement afterwards saying that the presumption of employment proposed by the Council "is less ambitious and effective than the one proposed by the Commission". 

The minister responsible for the Rider Law, Yolanda Díaz, leader of the left-wing Sumar coalition, heads the Spanish Presidency's negotiation team on the Platform Work Directive. Agence Europe reports that the Spanish Presidency was "represented at Ministerial level" at Wednesday's trilogue meeting. Thus, we have the bizarre situation that Díaz or someone representing Díaz sought to (gently) strong-arm the EP into backing a Council proposal which Díaz not only doesn't agree with, but almost certainly agrees wholeheartedly with the position of those on the other side of the table. 

Of course, the Spanish Presidency is obliged to represent the views of the Council as a whole. Díaz doesn't have a mandate to do what she wants. But there are growing question marks about what the Spanish Minister of Labour's game is. Chaibi ended her furious tweet by stating: "The Spain of Yolanda Díaz, who currently presides [over] the EU Council, cannot condone this affront."

RidersXDerechos, the Spanish campaign group which was represented in 'The Great Delivery' this week which cycled from Paris to Brussels to protest in favour of the EP proposal (Piero Valmassoi provides an in-depth look at the perspectives of The Great Delivery participants in GEP this week here), issued a statement on Wednesday titled: "Where is Yolanda Díaz?".

"Yolanda Díaz is called to be the main ally of platform workers, she must be the voice that represents our rights in these instances, even more so when she herself was the protagonist of the process that led to the 'Rider Law' of Spain," the statement reads. "Unfortunately, to our regret, we [have] heard nothing...Yolanda Díaz, we count on you, it is your duty to promote the presumption of employment."

It would be a very strange ending indeed if it was the architect of the Rider Law who buried not just a viable presumption of employment at European level, but potentially her own law as well. As Tim Christiaens has pointed out, if the Council's proposal passes "existing legislation, such as the Spanish 'Ley Rider', could also come into question, with pressure for a watering down in line with the European directive." As we have tried to emphasise, it is perfectly possible that the Directive not only fails to progress platform workers' rights, but actually takes them backwards.

The next trilogue will take place on 28 November, with the clock ticking before Spain hands over the reins to Belgium in January. With the way things are going, Spain's Minister of Labour might be relieved to get the Presidency off her plate.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • UBER EATS STRIKES AGAINST NEW PAYMENT SYSTEM SPREAD ACROSS FRANCE: Strikes are breaking out across France in response to Uber Eats rolling out its new payment system across the country. The strikes began two weeks ago in Lille and other towns and cities in the north when the Silicon Valley giant first tested its new pay model, which the company claims more precisely relates to distance travelled, in northern France. This week the new system was introduced nation-wide and it has led to an immediate response from workers with a national strike movement emerging since Saturday [3 November]. In the southern city of Montpellier, nearly 50 riders marched through the city against the new payment system. Strikes were also reported in the cities of Roanne, Clermont-Ferrand, Tourcoing, Epinal, Bourdeaux and Mâcon. The union Independants stated last week that they believe the new system cuts pay between 10-40%. Le Monde reports that the unions which are represented in the French Government's 'social dialogue' process with the platforms, which includes Independants, put the companies on notice that they were considering calling a national strike over pay due to the fall in wages, despite the fact that a minimum hourly pay was negotiated via the social dialogue process earlier this year. Read more here  
  • UBER ANNOUNCES THIRD QUARTER PROFIT: Uber announced its second ever quarter of profit on Tuesday [7 November], and its second in a row. Uber made $221 million in the third quarter of 2023, 10 cents per share, below market expectations of 12 cents per share. It's revenue growth, at 11% year-on-year, was also slightly below market expectations. The stock market reacted positively to the Q3 results, with the stock up four points by the end of the week. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi described the earnings report as "very strong", adding: "These results demonstrate that Uber continues to drive profitable growth at scale—and why we believe we’re well positioned for the journey ahead, in good or bad macro environments." Uber made $31.5 billion in losses from 2019 until the second quarter of 2023, when it turned its first-ever profit. If Uber continues to make profits at its Q3 rate, it will take 142 financial quarters to recoup its losses. Read more here.
  • €720,000 AND COUNTING: UBER CONTINUES TO BREACH DUTCH COURT RULING: More than six months later, Uber has still not complied with the Amsterdam Court of Appeal's ruling in April, meaning its fine now stands at €720,000, with €4,000 accruing for each additional day of non-compliance. Uber was ordered to provide transparency into the automated decision to fire two of its drivers, one in Portugal and the other in the UK, in a case brought forward by Worker Info Exchange and the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU). The District Court of Amsterdam ruled in October that the company had not complied with the April ruling because Uber had not provided adequate information and thus had forfeited the penalty payment, which is uncapped. The District Court judge said at the time of the verdict: "It may also be the case that Uber is deliberately trying to withhold certain information because it does not want to give an insight into its business and revenue model." The ADCU tweeted on Monday [6 November]: "No payment, no compliance. Like the UK Supreme Court, Uber is simply defying the rulings." Read more here
  • DUTCH UBER EATS RIDERS PROTEST OVER PAY REDUCTION: Dutch Uber Eats riders are up in arms after an error in how their pay is calculated caused their income to fall by as much as 50%. Riders started to be paid in miles, the British metric, rather than kilometres, which is used across mainland Europe. Riders in a WhatsApp group with over 600 members protested on Saturday [11 November] to make their displeasure felt under the slogan: "No to slavery. We are people. We are not robots.” On 1 October Uber rolled out a new payment system which it said would be "simpler", and initially riders were paid more. The company announced at the start of this week that they had made an "administrative error", claiming the riders had inadvertently been paid too much since 1 October, and since then the pay has been cut roughly in half. But Uber claims this reduced rate is another error because of the use of per mile rather than per kilometre, with the company "working on a solution with the highest priority" and that a 10 per cent bonus would be introduced to "alleviate the inconvenience". Riders, unsatisfied with these responses, decided to go ahead with the strike anyway with the aim of achieving higher earnings. Read more here.
  • FAIRWORK PUBLISHES FIRST PLATFORM RATINGS IN ALBANIA: Fairwork, the academic-action project on the gig economy, has released its first ratings for platforms in Albania, finding Albanian delivery firm Baboon, which dominates food delivery in the Balkans country, to be significantly fairer than its competitors. Baboon received seven out of 10, whereas the next best ratings, for Aladini and Speed Taxi, received two out of 10, and ADEX and Foodini zero out of 10. The report finds that, like the rest of the Balkans region, digital labour platforms are growing fast, especially since the pandemic. None of the platforms received points for respecting trade unions and collective bargaining, and the report found that Albania is a country with "a lack of practices guaranteeing labour rights, and low expectations of trade unions from workers." While efforts have been made to establish a trade union for platform workers in Albania, it has still not come to fruition. Read the full report here.
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In GEP this week

The voices of ‘The Great Delivery’, in their own words

Piero Valmassoi, journalist and platform transport policy expert, asked the participants and supporters The Great Delivery, which finished on Friday, about their experience of the unique 400 kilometre protest, and their hopes and ambitions for improving the conditions of platform workers in Europe.
‘La Grande Livraison (The Great Delivery)’ by European riders is delivering hope – Statement from Korean platform workers

The Alliance for Korean Platform Workers for a better tomorrow issued a statement in solidarity with European riders who participated in The Great Delivery, a 400 kilometre journey from Paris to Brussels to demand platform workers’ rights.
From around the web
Policy Brief: Fairwork Recommendations for the EU Directive on Platform Work

The FairWork team publish their analysis of the current proposals from the Council and Parliament for the Platform Work Directive.

Podcast: Uber and racial platform capitalism, with Sophie Bernard

Sophie Bernard, sociologist and author of 'UberUsés, le capitalisme racial de plateforme' (Puf, 2023), discusses her book on 'La p'tite Blan' podcast (in French). 
NYC Cab Drivers Just Sued Uber and Lyft for Hundreds of Millions in Unpaid Wages

Matthew Cole writes in 'Jacobin' on the New York Taxi Workers Alliance's legal victory against Uber and Lyft over wage theft.

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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.

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