European Parliament TRAN Committee opinion fails to take a stance on platform work

30 Apr 2021

On April 20, the Transport (TRAN) Committee of the European Parliament adopted its opinion on ‘fair working conditions, rights and social protection for platform workers’. Although it includes several constructive demands, it fails to explicitly condemn bogus self-employment and third employment status.

The opinion, drafted by the rapporteur MEP Marianne Vind (S&D), was prepared for the Employment (EMPL) Committee that leads on the file and is expected to adopt its report in June. Both documents are non-binding, but show political preferences, and it seems the TRAN Committee prefers to avoid taking positions and issue a diluted message.

The ETF breaks it down:

The Transport Committee stresses (paragraph 1.)  that platforms companies must comply with all legal obligations by rightly recognising that many platform companies ‘shifted social costs to workers and the public by circumventing taxes, labour laws and commercial standards’ (recital E). The text also points to the importance of social dialogue and collective bargaining rights for all workers, a view that the ETF fully welcomes and expects to see implemented.

Despite these points, the opinion frames the platform model in a positive light, failing to mention its many pitfalls and how to fix them. For example, the TRAN Committee indicates (recital B.) that the increase of platform workers during the COVID-19 pandemic shows platforms’ ability to create jobs. But, it omits that the average fees of delivery riders continue to decrease due to this workforce oversupply, failing to guarantee decent earnings.

When it comes to employment status, the opinion states that ‘several’ court cases and administrative decisions concluded the misclassification of transport workers (recital D.). The truth is that Spain alone has issued 41 such court decisions. What’s sorely missing from the opinion is a clear demand to introduce the presumption of employment status – a missed opportunity to promote unified, high standards across the EU.

Instead, the Committee issues a rather vague demand towards the European Commission to support Member States in determining the status of platform workers in a way that ‘allows for the development of new and innovative business models’. Alarmingly, this phrasing does not exclude developing models based on third employment status that will grant platform workers some, but not all labour rights. A model the ETF explicitly opposes in its Manifesto for Fair Platform Work work as this will only create a sub-class of employees and set a dangerous trend that could very well spread to other sectors.

Similarly, the text lacks concrete proposals regarding platform companies’ duties. The Committee calls for ‘some sort of cross-border digital system’ to collect social contributions from workers (paragraph 5.). However, they do not consider how platform companies themselves should contribute to the universal social protection requested in paragraph 3. if there is no presumption of employment status.

The next step is the Employment Committee’s report in June; the ETF will keep a close eye on developments.