Investigation. The Made in France sabotage of a European directive on the rights of uberized workers

From Brussels, headquarters of the European Commission, the lobbies have moved to Strasbourg, where the Parliament also meets. Because the draft directive on the protection of platform workers is entering its home stretch, even if new days of negotiations are constantly being added, at the request of Renew, the party of liberals, macronists and the right, who want to scuttle the content of the text.

Thus, on October 20, before one of these negotiating sessions, a preparatory meeting was held in the same room where we found all the platform lobbies – Uber, Bolt and Deliveroo in the lead, mixed with complacent MEPs . « And as usual, there were no workers’ representatives invited, even though they are in the very title of the draft directive », says rebellious MEP Leïla Chaibi, who is negotiating the text on behalf of the leftist group in the European Parliament.

The 3rd major forum of Alternatives to uberization met on September 8 in Brussels. The left group
does not intend to let the emissaries of the platforms carry out their work of undermining and rewriting the text. © Quentin Bruno-Gue /NGL

It was counting without Brahim Ben Ali, secretary of INV, the first union of VTC in France, who invited himself to the session accompanied by Morgane Ouadah, representative of Deliveroo deliverers, to offer the elected officials present a tray of grated carrots . “You decide our future and we are not present, you are boring us! he told them, and even if this expression is impossible to translate literally into English, the essence of the message was still well captured. “Go away and shut up! replied virulently Sara Skyttedal, a Swedish right-wing MP, a sign of the tension that reigns on the question.

An impact on 28 million workers

The text resulting from the Commission indeed includes several advances which surprised as much as panicked the platforms. First, it establishes a presumption of employment, like the riders’ law passed in Spain. “This is progress, particularly in the French context. The European Union thus affirms that the workers of the platforms are in a large majority subordinate, explains Josépha Dirringer. And the good news is that the text concerns all workers, in catering, medico-social, IT… And not just delivery people or VTC drivers, ”continues the social law lawyer. Twenty-eight million workers are thus potentially targeted in Europe, according to the impact study of the European Commission, which estimates that they could be 43 million by 2025.


The direct consequence is that, in the event of a dispute, it will be up to the platform to prove that its deliverers are indeed independent, and not up to the workers to demonstrate that they are subordinate. Problem, under pressure from lobbies and France, the Commission added criteria, to the chagrin of Leïla Chaibi who fought for the presumption to be general. “The Commission has defined subordination criteria such as not setting its prices, having equipment or a uniform imposed on it, not having access to its client portfolio, an algorithmic organization of work… lists the MEP.

In the current state of negotiations, if two criteria are validated, there is a presumption of employment. All the pressure from lobbies is to increase the number of criteria to tick, and who validates them. If it is up to the worker to prove his subordination, the text will no longer be of any use, ”she fears. A fear shared by Josépha Dirringer: “As we add criteria, we multiply the gray areas. Honestly, I am afraid that the direction taken will not put an end to the litigation, nor to the legal insecurity, ”points out the specialist. And the more criteria we add, the more the directive risks being counter-productive, and preventing future requalifications.

The “Uber files 2” report

The platforms, which have understood that there lay their salvation, do not skimp on the means. A report conducted by the Multinationals Observatory entitled “The Uber Files 2”, on the lobbying of platforms in Brussels, published on October 24, shows this well. Uber’s spending in this area has jumped 1,400% in six years. In 2016, the platform spent 90 million dollars around the world to try to impose its rules in the law of the countries. The close ties between the platform and France, highlighted by the Uber Files, continue. It should be remembered in particular that the American multinational can count on the support of its influential shareholders.

Among them are Bernard Arnault, whom Uber considers a key asset in the country, or Xavier Niel, who has invested no less than 10 million euros in the company. The mixture of genres still persists at the very heart of institutions. We can cite Markus Villig, the CEO of Bolt, the platform that spends the most on lobbying after Uber, which also sits on the Innovation Council of the European Union. Or Zuzana Púčiková, in charge of European policy at Uber, who has been appointed climate ambassador for the Commission. The lobbies are also fighting to prevent a form of algorithm transparency, which aims to allow those who are subjected to it to understand how they are paid. On the left, we propose, conversely, to make the operation of algorithms negotiable.

Meeting of ministers and vote in December

“From a directive which aims to protect workers, they want to make one to protect platforms against the risks of requalification”, summarizes Leïla Chaibi. The MEP does not lower her arms to defend the directive. A hearing of Mark MacGann, the former chief lobbyist of Uber and main source of the Uber Files, was organized at the end of October before the elected officials. The European Trade Union Confederation also gathered a demonstration to challenge MEPs: “Who do you work for, Uber or the citizens who elected you? they asked them. The coming weeks will in any case be decisive. In December, labor ministers from member countries will meet to discuss the issue, and the vote in the European Parliament could take place at the same time.


Behind this directive, there is a fundamental issue, which is particularly close to the heart of Josépha Dirringer: defining on whom the risks and the financing of social protection rest. The lawyer, member of the research group for another Labor Code, would have liked to tend towards more universality, by pulling up the rights of the self-employed, including that of consultation. “Or the power to manage social contributions, because with the takeover by the State, the insurance logic, workers lose the power and the consent to the contribution, deplores the lawyer. We are becoming consumers of social protection without worrying about whether it is Social Security or Axa that pays, as long as we are reimbursed… By dint of focusing on the contract, we lose all this political aspect, ”he insists. -she. Uber and the lobbies are not likely to forget to play politics.


Back to top button