Council breakthrough, an important step forward in the process, but text weakens worker’s hand

13 Jun 2023

The mandate of the Council of the European Union on the platform work directive was approved yesterday (June 12). This is an important step since it allows the beginning of inter-institutional negotiations with the Parliament and Commission, known as the trilogue. Without agreement at this stage, further delays would have risked legislation not getting through before 2024 and losing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to regulate platforms.

The process took 18 months and three presidencies, with Sweden finally getting an agreement based on qualified majority voting. 22 member states approved the general approach, with five (Estonia, Germany, Greece, Latvia, and Spain) abstaining.

While it is important that the process goes through, ETF has very strong reservations around the Council text.  As per the compromise agreed by the Member States, workers to be reclassified as employees would need to meet three out of seven criteria (Art. 4). This is a step back compared to two out of five criteria in the original Commission proposal. This higher threshold makes it harder for workers to be classified as employees.

The presumption of employment has also been weakened as it would not apply to tax, criminal and legal proceedings. Although member states may apply the presumption to those proceedings as a matter of national law (Art 4a). This may leave the door open for member states to narrow the application of the presumption. The French government, along with other countries, pushed for a weaker presumption by means of derogations. These derogations create an opportunity for loopholes that platform companies will inevitably exploit.

ETF believes the strong presumption of employment contained in the European Parliament text is the best way to ensure that workers are classified correctly to get access their employment, social and pension rights. We hope the trilogue negotiations will address the problems of the Council text and help end the exploitation of workers by platforms.

The process will now move to the trilogue negotiations between Council, Commission and Parliament. The aim is to get an agreement on a text that is acceptable to all. The negotiations are expected to begin before the summer break and hopefully conclude before the end of 2023. Spain will take over the Council Presidency from Sweden in July. A general election in Spain on July 23 may complicate things, particularly given that current opinion polls suggest a conservative victory. ETF will work very closely with our allies in the European Parliament to push for the best possible outcome for platform workers as soon as possible. Platform workers cannot wait any longer for their employment rights.