BARCELONA – Companies in the European mainstream economy, under pressure from workers’ rights, have tried to enter into employment contracts that offer certain benefits to workers but do not make them employees.
Uber Technologies Inc.
and Deliveroo, supported by Amazon.com Inc., are among a number of food delivery services seeking agreements with employees and unions in the hope of avoiding being forced by legislation to treat deliverers as employees, which could strengthen their business model.
These efforts follow a number of court rulings across Europe that challenge the idea that companies consider drivers and couriers to be self-employed.
In the UK, Uber is appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn a previous ruling that drivers using the application actually work for the company, while the Swiss courts have forced Uber Eats to stop using independent contractors in the Geneva area. Instead, external personnel began to be deployed, a first for the company.
A driver from Uber Eats takes an order in London, where the company opposes a court decision that effectively classifies its employees as employees.
Dave Rushen/Zuma Press
Businesses in the economy claim that reclassifying workers as employees would increase costs, reduce worker flexibility and, as a result, lead to job losses. After moving to Geneva, Mr Uber said there were only 300 contracted couriers, which cost 1,000 extra jobs.
Instead, companies are recruiting a recent employment contract with a small right-wing trade union in Italy as an alternative. As part of the agreement reached in September, the group, which also owns Uber and Deliveroo, promised the couriers in Italy 10 euros per hour for deliveries, or about 12 dollars, as well as equipment and insurance. This is more than the usual minimum wage of 7 euros per hour, but without holidays or sick pay.
The companies reached an agreement covering all their employees in the food sector in the country after the Italian Government threatened to regulate the sector. The companies claim that the agreement will not increase costs for their customers.
The large trade unions say that the agreement makes workers worse off than if they were treated as employees, but it is still in force. Companies have expressed an interest in concluding similar agreements in other countries, in particular France and Spain.
While Uber and
The Italian agreement, which offered modest benefits to California executives after winning a state vote to retain employees as independent contractors, goes further by creating collective bargaining for independent contractors.
said it wants to establish collective bargaining for contractors, and a New York-based group of self-employed drivers urged states, following the vote in California, to offer such arrangements to employees of giant companies.
In Europe, the next battlefield is Spain, where the government hopes to adopt a new economic law in the coming weeks. The companies are insisting on an agreement based on the Italian model in order to prevent workers from being retrained.
The sector also supported the French government’s proposals to introduce negotiated charters of working conditions, but excluded the right to full employment.
We believe workers should have access to more social rights, but not necessarily with a strict employment regime, he said.
Co-founder of the Barcelona-based app Glovoapp23 SL, which operates under the name Glovo throughout Europe and parts of Africa.
In Spain, Glovo, Deliveroo and Uber say they are willing to offer employees an agreement that provides for the payment of a minimum wage plus bonuses for working in bad weather, but does not include benefits such as paid holidays.
Mr Deliver said he wanted to improve the social protection of workers in Spain and elsewhere without compromising flexibility.
Deliveries meet in June for a demonstration in support of workers’ rights in Malaga, Spain.
Jesus Merida/Zuma Press
Some deliverers support the efforts of companies in Spain.
We want to be able to work as independent contractors and work as many hours as we want.
Badr Eddin Hilali,
Responsible for the Asociación Autonoma de Riders (Autonomous Riders Association), a courier group working with platform companies. I don’t care if it’s a 40, 30 or 20 hour contract.
Others say that companies are a false choice between flexibility and employment.
The Italian model is what companies want because it offers them more benefits and fewer employees.
Spokesman of the independent courier group Riders X Derechos (Riders for Rights), which campaigns for the labour law of couriers.
Flexibility is something you say you have. We don’t work when we want to, we work when we have the right to, which is different, said Gutierrez, referring to the lack of guaranteed minimum work and the pressure to work at night and weekends.
European jitterbug companies can try to prevent their employees from being classified as employees unless they change their control methods, including by making their algorithms and financial data on labour costs more transparent, he said.
Valerio de Stefano,
Professor of labour law at KU Leuven.
In European countries, he said, occupational health and safety is often laid down at constitutional level, which could complicate efforts to create a new category of independent contractors in legislation.
Mr De Stefano also suggested that European legislation could have implications for the United States.
When the whole of Europe treats employees of large companies as employees, it would be difficult for U.S. lawmakers not to at least consider whether they should be involved, he said.
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gig economy antitrust,antitrust laws independent contractors