ETF’s take on the Digital Services Act: ‘Platform work requires more attention!’

25 Sep 2020

As part of the European Digital Strategy, the European Commission is currently working on the new Digital Services Act. Its aim, according to the Commission, is to strengthen the Single Market for digital services and foster innovation and competitiveness online. Part of the public consultation on the Act also covered the issues of working conditions and obstacles to collective bargaining in the platform economy.

The ETF replied to the public consultation, but it should be noted that this was launched by DG Competition, which does not have competences on social policy. It might be due to the fact that according to the Commission the public consultation only explores the issue of platform work and will be tackled in the future by other initiatives. Whatever the reason, the issue of platform work requires more attention and a specific focus rather than being added to a consultation on another topic. Additionally, we believe that it will be indispensable to involve trade unions and other stakeholders in the development of the future initiatives.

Employment status and collective bargaining rights for platform workers

The ETF stresses the issue of online platforms on the rise and the consequently growing concerns regarding platforms workers’ rights. The current disruptive model of platforms ignores workers’ rights and fails to respect the legal obligations of employers, thus creating unfair competition with companies in the transport sector, and feeds into the dangerous practice of bogus self-employment.

In order to ensure decent working conditions for all workers and a level playing field between online and offline businesses providing comparable services, it should be ensured by the EU and the Member States that platforms which largely determine the terms and conditions of engagement and provision of services should, in fact, be held liable as employers.  It should also entail the obligations such as guaranteeing platform workers’ rights to unionise and the right to collective bargaining of all workers. However, the ETF underlines that no additional or intermediary employment categories are needed or desirable to rectify this problem, as digital workers must not be considered as second-class workers. Finally, despite the employment status, all workers should be able to benefit from access to social security measures when needed.

Data access

Regarding mobility platforms and mobility as a Service (Maas), though they have great potential to transition to more efficient and cleaner transport, to be socially fair, they must fulfil certain criteria.

For the ETF, this means MaaS solutions should be governed by public authorities as leaving their implementation to the market (private mobility platforms) could lead to discriminatory behaviours, with mobility platforms acting as gatekeepers. The roles and responsibilities of MaaS platform operators, as well as mobility service providers, need to be clearly established. Moreover, traffic data generated by private mobility platforms should be made available to public authorities in order to enhance urban mobility planning. The data generated and gathered by public authorities should be in turn granted only to the mobility platforms that are compliant with the existing legal requirements as should the access to a MaaS platform.

On the topic of data storage, for the ETF, access is key. Platform workers’ data is stored by digital platforms and collection of workers’ data must be done in consultation with and participation of the trade union representatives. Data Protection Officers should be informed. and workers must be able to make a free and voluntary decision. Through collective bargaining, workers must have the right to access and to determine how their data is used.

Gender-neutral software

Technology is not gender-neutral, and so the software, the algorithms used by digital platforms need to be tested for gender impacts in order to ensure that women workers are not negatively impacted by it in terms of pay, safety or other issues. For example, women are less likely to drive in late-night surge times and therefore lose out on the most profitable times. This is an impact of the pricing structure. As a solution, for example, women drivers could have surge pricing at other times of the day.


Our full reply and contribution to the consultation can be downloaded at your right.