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We might be living in a historical moment. The European Commission is about to launch a proposal for an EU directive on Digital Platform Workers with the aim of improving the working conditions of people working in the platform economy. The juridical war that trade unions across Europe have been fighting for many years is now being translated into policies, as announced by President Ursula von der Leyen in September 2020. It seems that after having successfully challenged platform companies in European courts, trade unions are also winning the battle of ideas. Only two years ago, it was unthinkable that platform companies like Uber and Deliveroo would have to treat their workers according to the same rules as regular businesses. However, we are not there yet and the work for trade unions in this area is only starting. They will need to adapt to those “new business models” which are here to stay, make sure that the interpretation of “employment relationship” is not too narrow and finally, that an enforcement mechanism is foreseen in the new legislation.

The ETUI has published extensively on this topic over the past years. Senior researcher Christophe Degryse started to work on this issue some years ago creating a stable base of knowledge on the topic. More recently, Pierre Bérastégui has compiled a systematic review of psychosocial risks related to how gig work is organised, designed and managed. Jan Drahokoupil and Kurt Vandaele have published a comprehensive guide covering the key issues and significant trends relating to labour within the platform economy, thereby gathering the existing comparative evidence covering all world regions. Silvia Rainone and Nicola Countouris define an alternative normative paradigm to reconsider the scope of collective labour law concerning the constraints imposed on it by EU competition law so that platform workers can benefit from collective bargaining. At the beginning of 2022, the ETUI will also publish the results of one of the most ambitious and methodologically rigorous comparative surveys on internet and platform work, mapping the precise extent to which the internet is used as a tool to generate income, how that income is generated and by whom, and offering a breakdown of the type of work relations prevailing in the sector.

At the end of October, the ETUI hosted a two-day hybrid conference on the role of labour law in the digital transition. More than fifteen researchers, lawyers and trade unionists discussed recent developments that have taken place or should have taken place, in EU policymaking, labour law, case law and collective bargaining. If you have missed this important conference, you can download the presentations and watch the recordings here.