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The Council breaks the stalemate, but is the Platform Work Directive deal really worth it?

Future of work / EPC FLASH ANALYSIS
Giulia Torchio

Date: 14/03/2024
Against all odds, Estonia and Greece broke the stalemate that had prevented the Council from reaching an agreement on the Platform Work Directive (PWD). In an unexpected U-turn, Ministers from Tallinn and Athens approved the compromise on the table, which now needs to be finalised and adopted formally by the Parliament and the Council. However, let’s also ask: is this deal worth it?

The number of gig workers in the EU is expected to double by 2025. In December 2021, the European Commission published a package of measures to improve the working conditions of platform workers. The PWD proposed a mechanism to determine the employment status of platform workers and rules on algorithmic management practices in the workplace.

However, as the file went through the legislative tumble dryer, it became clear that the PWD was too ambitious for some Member States, in particular France and Germany. The text suffered a series of severe blows over the two years of negotiations. Despite the satisfaction of reaching an agreement against expectations, the final deal must be assessed against its original purpose and capacity to meet its two fundamental objectives.

To fight false self-employment, the original text proposed EU-wide criteria that would trigger a “rebuttable presumption of employment” for platform workers. However, Member States fiercely opposed such criteria on different grounds, particularly France, which on some occasions was accused of doing Uber’s bidding. In this regard, the adopted compromise text now leaves it up to Member States to determine the presumption of employment in their legal systems. This clearly defeats the PWD’s original purpose of harmonising EU labour law and will inevitably lead to a fragmented approach across the EU.

However, when it comes to rules on algorithmic management, curiously enough, the standoff on employment contracts worked in their favour. The final text remains close to the original proposal and extends the protection afforded by the EU digital acquis to platform workers in innovative ways. Specifically, provisions foresee greater transparency surrounding the disclosure and use of automated monitoring and decision-making systems. Under the PWD, employers are also banned from automatically processing some categories of personal data and must ensure human oversight and evaluation.

All said, the PWD marks a significant step forward in addressing the challenges faced by platform workers, but it is only half a win. It sends an important signal regarding the EU’s willingness to rein in platforms’ use and abuse of gig work, but we are still a far cry from more harmonised EU labour law.

Giulia Torchio is a Junior Policy Analyst in the Europe’s Political Economy programme at the European Policy Centre.

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