From Proposal to Impasse: The EU Platform Work Directive's Turbulent Journey

France, Germany, Greece, and Estonia sink the directive proposal in the Coreper

In December 2023, the Spanish Council Presidency managed to reach a provisional agreement on the Platform Work Directive. However, by the end of the year, it had to acknowledge the absence of a majority in the Council to adopt this proposal. The Belgian Presidency took over the dossier and aimed to broker a deal within its mandate, but its proposal was again rejected in the Coreper on Friday, February 16, 2024.

And yet, regulating the working conditions of platform workers at the EU level remains critically important. Currently, there is significant abuse, exploitation, and ambiguity surrounding the working conditions of gig workers. Most often, these workers are classified as self-employed, despite the existence of a relationship akin to that between an employer and employee.


The Correct Classification of Self-Employed Workers

The majority of the EU’s 28 million platform workers, including taxi drivers, domestic workers, and food delivery drivers, are formally self-employed. However, many are subject to the same rules and restrictions as employed workers and should, therefore, be entitled to the labor rights provided under national and EU law.

The Spanish provisional agreement proposed that workers would be legally presumed to be employees if their relationship with the platform met a certain number of conditions.

The Belgian provisional agreement suggested that the directive requires EU countries to establish a rebuttable legal presumption of employment at the national level. This aims to correct the unequal power dynamics between the platform and the workers, facilitating the correction of false self-employment. Under this agreement, the burden of proof would shift to the platform. If a platform wishes to contest the presumption of an employment relationship, it must prove that the contractual relationship does not constitute employment.


Regulating the Use of Algorithms

A second significant aspect of the directive addressed the need for transparent algorithm use. Platforms are required to ensure human oversight of key decisions affecting platform workers. For example, under the new rules, a worker cannot be dismissed based on a decision made solely by an algorithm or an automated decision-making system.


The road ahead

However, this agreement faced opposition from representatives of France, Germany, Greece, and Estonia, thus not reaching the needed majority of 65% of the EU’s population in the Council.

Ludovic Voet, confederal secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), now urges the European Commission and the 23 other constructive countries to take action.