Spain gives platform workers employee status

In the “gig economy”, more and more voices are raised against the working conditions of bicycle delivery men and VTC drivers who have an independent status, while being dependent on the platforms. Some countries are starting to shake things up, and France is also more clearly showing its position in favor of protecting the rights of these self-employed workers subordinate to platform algorithms.

In Spain, wage employment is the path chosen by the government. Spain-based food delivery companies now have three months to employ their couriers as staff, under new rules approved by the government on Tuesday. It is one of the first laws in Europe concerning the rights of workers in the gig economy.

The decree aims to clarify the legal situation of thousands of couriers after Spain’s Supreme Court ruled last year that companies must hire them as employees. “The regulation approved today (…) puts us at the forefront of a technological change that cannot leave labor rights behind,” said Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz, according to comments reported by Reuters.

A faltering economic model

Uber has spoken out against the new regulation, saying it will “directly hurt thousands of couriers who use food delivery apps for much-needed flexible earning opportunities and who have made it clear that” they did not want to be classified as employees, ”said a spokesperson.

According to Adigital, an association of companies that represents companies in the gig economy, including Glovo and Deliveroo, this decree is “a blow to the future of the digital economy in Spain”.

Although the legislation makes it harder for companies to have independent couriers, closing the door to a common practice, several delivery associations and labor experts say it does not completely resolve their legal situation, anticipating further battles. potential judicial proceedings.

Most delivery companies have started to prepare for the change, seeking new business models. Just Eat, the Spanish branch of Take Away, has already hired some of its workers and is covering peak demand with workers from transport companies. Others, like Glovo, have chosen to hire certain delivery people through interim agencies, according to delivery people. But one thing is certain, the skepticism on the viability of the economic model of the platforms weighs on the markets, evidenced by the very difficult beginnings of Deliveroo on the London Stock Exchange, with a fall of 26.3% of its share.

In France, delivery people can appoint their representatives

In France, where nearly 100,000 people are affected by the economy of collaborative platforms, the avenues put on the table tend to be directed towards collective negotiations, rather than towards the generalization of wage employment. An ordinance dated April 21, 2021 allows self-employed workers on mobility platforms to appoint their representatives in 2022. At the same time, it creates the Social Relations Authority for Employment Platforms, a new public establishment responsible for “regulating social relations between platforms and independent workers ”.

This ordinance follows the work carried out by the government with the social partners, as well as the recommendations of the mission entrusted by the Minister of Labor to Bruno Mettling, president of the consulting firm Topics, on the regulation of labor relations in the sector. For Gilbert Cette, professor of economics at the University of Aix-Marseille, this protection of labor rights towards which collective negotiations must lead is not limited to the field of social protection in the field of wages. “For example, there is no equivalent of the minimum wage for employees, or minimum income or maximum working range protection”, he said, this Wednesday morning, during a hearing in the Senate on this subject.

For the economist, the systematic reclassification of the status of the self-employed worker into an employee, as Spain does, seems to be an “erroneous choice” which “tends to want to force into this category a form of activity which is different. and which calls for different flexibilities ”. He recommends, in this sense, to “bring out through collective bargaining protections that are associated with the specificities of these forms of activity, in all areas where these protections are impoverished”, he suggests. “We must find the means to bring about this collective bargaining between platforms and workers, so that standards are developed in a conventional manner. “

The path of collective bargaining rather than wage labor

Also questioned this morning by senators from the Social Affairs Committee, Bruno Mettling agrees with his position, asserting that the way of collective bargaining is the most “efficient”. In the course of the interviews carried out for his report, he observes that “if some workers are projecting themselves into salaried work, it is not a massive demand. And therefore, the real question is not that of status, but of access to rights ”. But the thing is not as simple as it seems, and we remember in March 2020 the judgment of the Court of Cassation, which proposed to reclassify for the first time in France as an employment contract. relationship between the company Uber and one of its drivers.

Bruno Mettling underlines that the ordinance which has just come out, if “it allows to organize the expression of the representatives of the workers”, does not say anything on the other hand on “the organization of the platforms themselves”. He encourages “the whole system to be put in place quickly”.

For its part, the European Union has launched a consultation on the right to collective representation of self-employed workers, which could lead to a Commission initiative at the end of the year.

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