German and French liberals: no brake on modern platform work

Due to objections from market-oriented liberal politicians in France and Germany, a EU directive for the protection of platform workers is still in danger of stalling. With the European elections in June, the chances of a restart of the negotiations are very small.

The directive aims to provide better protection to platform workers, who are often vulnerable to exploitation and unfair working conditions. The European Parliament wants to bind platform companies such as taxi company Uber to rules because they do not pay social security contributions for their staff because, according to them, they are not employed. Platforms hire their workers as self-employed, which means they are not entitled to social benefits such as pension accrual and vacation days.

Negotiators from the EU countries and the European Parliament recently agreed – after years of negotiations – on clearer rules. But now that it comes to final votes, there appears to be no required qualified majority among the 27 EU countries. Greece, Estonia and Germany say they will abstain from voting on March 11, and France will even vote against it.

The German abstention from voting is the result of the 'working agreement' in the coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP, in case they differ in opinion about something. In that case, they will abstain from voting at EU level. In this specific case, German liberals do not want to bind the free market to new rules and do not want to slow down the new type of Internet services-based companies. 

That is also the approach of liberal French President Emmanuel Macron, who describes salaried staff as old-fashioned and welcomes the arrival of more freelance work, more self-employed people and more part-time jobs as a new economic future.

According to data from the European Commission, there are around 500 digital work platforms across the European Union, generating a combined turnover of 20 billion euros and employing more than 28 million people. More than half of them earn less than the legally prescribed minimum wage per hour.

According to the European Parliament, liberal leaders in France, Estonia and Germany and the conservative Greek Prime Minister are blocking a historic opportunity to protect all workers and the European economy in the digital age. 

Dutch MEP Agnes Jongerius (S&D/PvdA) made an urgent appeal to the four countries not to let the matter get stuck, as has now happened with the new European directive on chain liability and precautionary duty (due diligence). Jongerius said that this has now been discussed with both German Chancellor Olav Scholz and the FDP leadership. 

“The current impasse is a major threat to the European social model. Some liberal and conservative forces are endangering our social Europe and missing an opportunity for Europe to become the pioneer in global labor law,” said Jongerius.