Photo credits: Getty images

After months of lengthy negotiations, the European Parliament reached a deal on the platform work directive.

The original draft put forward by the European Commission last year covered three main areas, including the introduction of a legal presumption of employment. It seeks to ensure that people working through platforms are granted the legal employment status that corresponds to their actual work arrangements. To determine whether the platform is an employer, the Commission provided a list of five control criteria of which two are sufficient to legally presume employability. According to the original draft, platforms would have the right to contest or ‘rebut’ this classification, but with the burden of proving that there is no employment relationship resting on them.

The agreement reached by the European Parliament – pending confirmation on 12 December – went even further with the complete removal of the list of criteria. Instead, MEPs agreed to let workers, trade unions and national authorities trigger the presumption if they deemed it fair, with no conditions to fulfil. The platform would then have the right to rebut the presumption by proving workers are ‘genuinely self-employed’. As such, a new list of criteria was created from scratch to guide rebuttal proceedings. Concessions had to be made on the new criteria, with the inclusion of many more references to member states’ competence. ‘Everyone gave up something and got something’, said Elisabetta Gualmini, rapporteur of the directive. A source very close to the file, speaking to EURACTIV, phrased it a little less diplomatically: ‘It’s all about member states, member states and member states’.

The second part of the directive touches on transparency in the use of algorithms by digital labour platforms – the most crucial part of the directive according to Gualmini. The deal includes human oversight for all algorithmic decisions that ‘significantly affect working conditions’ and promote collective bargaining across the board for platform workers. However, Gualmini acknowledges she had to give in on broadening the directive’s scope, which she wanted to extend to all workers touched by algorithmic management but remained as per the original proposal.

However, the file moved in a completely different direction in the EU Council. According to ETUC Confederal Secretary Ludovic Voet, the proposal of the Czech presidency would ‘weaken protections for precarious platform workers’. The Czech proposal was rejected last week following objections from eight member states, but the presidency is pressing ahead by putting a largely unchanged proposal. ‘The proposal of the Czech presidency is totally unacceptable for us, below the Commission’s initial proposal’, Gualmini said, voicing concerns that the upcoming Swedish presidency might bring down the level of worker protection even further.

The details of the political agreement in the European Parliament are still not defined, and are subject to confirmation first at the committee level on 12 December, followed by plenary adoption early next year. EURACTIV points that the plenary vote might be particularly risky for the deal, as the members of the employment committee are generally more oriented toward worker protection than the rest of the EU lawmakers. Once voted in plenary, the directive proposal will then be subject to trilogue negotiations with the Czech Presidency later in 2023.