A still uncertain future for millions of platform workers

After the failure of the negotiations on the Platform Workers Directive under the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), the Belgian presidency has suffered the same defeat as its predecessor: the provisional agreement reached did not obtain the required majority. This is a real setback not only for millions of platform workers, but also for the Belgian presidency, which had been trying to finally move things forward and put an end to the abusive practices of certain digital platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo.

According to a study by the European Commission, around 28 million people currently work on digital platforms. A figure that could rise to 43 million by 2025[1]. 5.5 million of these 28 million workers are estimated to be bogus self-employed, facing precarious working conditions and lacking access to social protection. The proposed directive on platform workers, which is in line with the objectives of the European Committee of Social Rights, would have been a ray of hope for these bogus self-employed, who legitimately claim their right to employee status and thus to better working conditions, adequate social protection, paid leave and decent minimum wages.

Ever since its presentation, this long-awaited directive has been the subject of heated debates, reactions and blockades by certain member states.

On December 13, the Spanish president of the EU Council announced that he had reached a provisional agreement on the text. In the end, the proposed text could not even be discussed, as some member states (France, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Greece, Hungary and Sweden) announced that they would oppose the vote. After this failed attempt, the dossier was handed over to the Belgian presidency at the beginning of the year. Here, too, progress seemed more than promising, and a preliminary agreement was reached in early February. However, a blocking minority consisting of Estonia, Greece, Germany and France managed to rally some reluctant member states, and the vote on the provisional agreement failed again despite numerous concessions.

At the heart of the debate is the controversy over the so-called “legal presumption of employee status”, a mechanism that would allow bogus self-employed workers to be reclassified as employees. In addition, the strong influence of lobbies is pushing member states to abandon the agreement.

Despite this latest setback, the OGBL and LCGB welcome the European Commission’s initiative and the recent attempts by the Spanish and Belgian presidencies to move the dossier forward. In particular, they welcome the attitude of the majority of the European Parliament and that of the majority of governments, including the old and new Luxembourg governments.

For some time now, Luxembourg has been witnessing the growing phenomenon of platforms. Some of them, such as Wedely, Goosty, Foozo and Miammiam, have become part of our daily landscape. Recently, it was announced that Wolt, a food and goods delivery service already active in 29 countries, would be setting up in Luxembourg. Like other large platforms, Wolt sells its business model on the pretext that its employees will benefit from greater flexibility and independence. What is not mentioned is that this model goes hand in hand with the casualization of work, the surveillance of workers by digital platforms and social dumping. Until now, you could only have your food delivered by these platforms. Soon you’ll be able to order other goods, such as a telephone cable, as the CEO of Wolt Luxembourg explains[2]. The risk of these companies extending their business model to other services is significant and should not be underestimated.

The Chamber of Employees of Luxembourg (CSL) prepared a draft law on platform workers and sent it to the Luxembourg government. The government did not submit it to the Chamber of Deputies, on the pretext that it had to be based on the European directive that was about to be adopted.

Given the current circumstances and the fact that the proposed directive has been postponed indefinitely, the OGBL and LCGB believe that the Chamber of Deputies should discuss the CSL’s draft law and establish a national framework for the protection of the social rights and working conditions of workers on digital platforms.

Communicated by the Joint European Secretariat of the OGBL and LCGB (SECEC), February 21, 2024

[1] European Commission Impact Assessment Report accompanying the proposal for a Directive on the improvement of working conditions for platform workers (9.12.2021), online: < https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:52021SC0397 >, (accessed 19.02.2024).

[2] Palms Jeff, Wolt moves to Luxembourg, 19.02.2024, in French online: < https://paperjam.lu/article/wolt-s-installe-au-luxembourg >, (accessed 19.02.2024).