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BEERG Newsletter - Platform Economy: Agreement proving difficult

Reports from Brussels suggest that the Council of Ministers continues to have difficulties in finding a common position on the proposed Directive on platform workers. 

Members of the Council are split over the “presumption of employment” issue. Some countries, such as Spain, lean towards the position of the European Parliament of assuming that all platform workers should be seen as employees, unless the platform can prove otherwise. Others, such as France, want more flexibility, arguing that platforms provide a gateway into work for many from marginalised communities and not all platform workers want to be seen as employees.

However, there is no disagreement between members of the Council on the need for the information and consultation of workers’ representatives, whether employees or self-employed, on the use of algorithms and Artificial Intelligence in human resource decisions which impact the scheduling of work, pay, suspension of workers from the platform. 

Once the Council finds a common position then it will have to enter into negotiations with the Parliament and the Commission to see if agreement on a consensus text can be found. These negotiations look like being long and difficult. 

Reuters reports that Just Eat is cutting 1,870 jobs in the UK, after confirming it would stop employing its own couriers and use contractors instead. The drivers and riders affected have been given six weeks' notice, while 170 operational roles will also go. The takeaway delivery firm saw a 9% fall in customer numbers last year as Covid rules eased and diners returned to pubs and restaurants. 

A spokeswoman said: "We have proposed to transition away from the worker model for couriers, which is a small part of our overall delivery operations - running in certain parts of six UK cities." 

Just Eat, which is the largest takeaway delivery company in Europe, has been a prominent supporter of plans to hire its couriers in Europe as workers, arguing this gave them benefits and more workplace protection. The company’s CEO Jitse Groen had previously said the so-called gig economy model came "at the expense of society and workers themselves." 

But while most of its riders in the EU are classed as workers, more than 90% of its meals in Britain are delivered by contractors. Just Eat says using workers rather than self-employed people in the UK put it at a competitive disadvantage against rivals such as Deliveroo and Uber. The firm also uses a contractor model in Ireland, Slovakia and most of France excluding Paris where its riders are full employees.

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Authors: Tom Hayes

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