Gig workers in France have been awarded the right to be represented in any discussions with the platforms they work for.
The National Assembly ratified a proposal submitted earlier this year that provides for representatives of gig workers such as VTCs (taxi drivers and chauffeurs) and food delivery drivers to be elected early in 2022.
The elections will be national and a single round of electronic voting will decide the outcome. Those organisations polling more than 5% of the first ballot may be recognised as representatives.
The initiative is part of a widespread challenge to gig-economy platforms that insist they are merely technology providers for self-employed freelancers – an argument which does not always satisfy European regulators.
In March, for example, France’s supreme court ruled that because Uber controls the customer base, rates, and itineraries unilaterally, a driver’s independent status was “fictitious”. In September, a Dutch court ruled that Uber drivers in the Netherlands were employees and could not be considered self-employed. A similar ruling was made in a British court in February.
Different European approaches
Yet not everyone believes that the new right to representation in France is sufficient. Factions on the left say that by not enforcing gig workers’ individual rights as employees, the government has conferred a different status on them.
Unlike some other European countries, France has no intermediate status between a salaried employee and a self-employed individual.
Italy has “collaborazione coordinata e continuativa” (coordinated and continuous collaboration) or “collaborazione a progetto” (project collaboration) statuses, while Spain has a third status referred to by terms including “autonomo”. In the UK, someone who is neither an employee nor a freelance is a worker and is entitled to certain benefits.
Adrien Quatennens, an assembly member for the centre-left La France Insoumise party, says the government’s actions will “institutionalise Uberisation” and called for it to “reverse the burden of proof” when there is a dispute so platforms must prove there is no employment relationship.
The right was equally disquieted, with Republican assembly member Stéphane Viry referring to the law as “state control of social dialogue”.
– Pádraig Floyd PlatformsIntelligence contributing writer
Photo: John Towner