Social Partner consultation on platform work
Submitted to the European Commission 31 March 2021.
First phase consultation of social partners under Article 154 TFEU on possible action addressing the challenges related to working conditions in platform work.
Eurocadres represents six million professionals and managers on European level. Those of professionals and managers who are engaged in platform work, usually work for online platforms in the fields of software development, AI training, encoding data, translation work, tagging pictures, IT or design projects.
Eurocadres supports the ETUC response to the consultation, especially these key issues:
- A presumption of employment status for platform workers
- The reversal of the burden of proof by platform
- Platforms are in fact ‘companies’ with all the obligations this status entails
- Digital platform companies should be linked to their sector of activity
- A third status between workers and self-employed should not be created.
On top of these, Eurocadres wants to highlight the importance of specific issues concerning professionals and managers as online platform workers, which are mainly invisible due to the nature of their tasks.
1. Do you consider that the European Commission has correctly and sufficiently identified the issues and the possible areas for EU action?
It is stated in the Commission’s consultation document that:
- Worldwide, the online labour platform market has grown by 30% over a period of two years. This exponential trend is expected to continue and the number of people working through platforms is expected to become more significant in the years ahead.
- These workers’ educational attainments are higher than those of workers in the ‘traditional’ economy: more than half of people working through platforms are highly educated.
We do not agree with the statement that the Commission puts forward, saying that online labour platforms with high skill levels have better working conditions in terms of matching work and work precariousness. Neither do we agree that ‘platform work, in which many people are currently classified as self-employed’ entails a clear employment relationship.
The Commission also states that ‘In online platform work where tasks are distributed through contests, earnings may be (relatively) good but may also be unpredictable’. We cannot consider that the earnings from platform work are sufficient for high-skilled people. We agree that the Commission identified the areas to be tackled, but the main issue lacking is that platforms should be considered as employers, and not as intermediaries with all the obligations this entails. They have obligations as employers towards workers and they have a role in collective bargaining linked to the sector of activity.
The Commission identified social protection challenges that are the same for all non-standard workers (including the self-employed). A (bogus) self-employed living with less than the minimum wage is unable to finance their social protection. We therefore need to work on ensuring a level playing field with applicable wages for employees and adequate tariffs for the self-employed. We agree on the challenges identified on the access to collective representation and bargaining.
When talking about training provisions, it is impossible to speak about platforms without linking them to their sector of activity and without recognising them as employers. The content, financing and transportability of training for workers are widely determined by provisions in the sectors of activity and bargained collectively with trade union representatives. High-skilled workers need to access lifelong learning to maintain their skills.
2. Do you consider that EU action is needed to effectively address the identified issues and achieve the objectives presented?
The added value of EU action is obvious in several dimensions:
- EU action could improve the working conditions for workers in platform companies in the EU.
- the cross-border dimension of platform work makes a common EU approach appropriate to establish a level playing field and to avoid fragmentation.
- national regulatory differences in platform work may induce regime shopping for the platform companies, choosing the least regulated Member States to drive their business. Thereby the patchwork situation would continue.
- addressing working conditions in platform work is a first condition to create a more level playing field and avoid unequal treatment of workers.
- the initiative can strengthen the European way of life and work with strong workers’ rights.
III. If so, should the action cover all people working in platforms, whether workers or self-employed? Should it focus on specific types of digital labour platforms, and if yes which ones?
The EU action should be based on a presumption of an employment relationship complemented by a reversed burden of proof and the recognition of platforms as companies with all the obligations it entails. The EU action should also guarantee fair working conditions for all type of non-standard workers and workers on platform companies (including the self-employed) regardless of their employment status and it should also guarantee access to individual and collective labour and social rights.
3. If EU action is deemed necessary, what rights and obligations should be included in that action? Do the objectives presented in Section 5 of this document present a comprehensive overview of actions needed?
The EU actions presented are comprehensive, but the absence of recognition of platforms as companies with all the obligations they entail, and by linking them to their sector of activity, would weaken any initiative.
A presumption of an employment status is a priority with the reversal of the burden of proof. A worker who performs work under the same conditions as "normal" workers should be classified as such according to the definitions used in the respective industrial relation systems.
We need to enforce OSH regulations for online platform companies to tackle the risks that workers are facing: Psychosocial risks including isolation, stress, technostress, technology dependency, information overload, burnout, posture disorders, online harassment, and overall precarious working conditions, visual fatigue, musculoskeletal problems etc.
Rules and practices of the host country where the platform work is performed should apply. National labour inspectorates shall develop tools and strategies to effectively enforce existing OSH rules and labour law at the place of work.
As regards to the scope of social protection, non-standard workers and workers in platform companies (including the self-employed) should have the same protection as ordinary workers. Trade unions and workers should have access to the algorithm. Platform workers should be able to be represented by trade unions. We agree with the consultation paper, that irrespective of the employment status, workers in platform companies should benefit from support in training and upskilling. Platform workers should be granted the right to receive free mandatory training that the employer has a duty to provide and measures for reintegration into the labour market. Training in relation to job-related skills need to be paid by the employers and be completed during working hours.
We believe that a legislative approach is now needed with an exchange of good practice. The provision of guidance and monitoring the development of platforms are no longer useful.
4. Would you consider initiating a dialogue under Article 155 TFEU on any of the issues identified in this consultation?
Most platform companies deny that they are employers and are not members of employer associations; a voluntary agreement with a traditional employer association would not cover the platform companies and so an implementation would fail. It would be better that the European legislator takes the initiative to avoid lengthy empty talks which will only delay legislation and harm workers in platform companies instead of giving them the necessary support.