May Day reminds us of the collective efforts that have been made throughout history to fight for worker’s rights. On this day, we ask for the protection of labour rights for all Europeans.
This year, the European Greens are focused on the need to take decisive action to guarantee the socio-economic protections of gig-workers. A clear definition of gig-work is still being developed in the EU, but it is broadly understood as work in which payment is received according to a completed task (gig). It is estimated that up to 36 million EU workers have participated in gig-work, including through platforms such as Uber or Deliveroo.
Pandemic profiteers must pay their fair share towards recovery and ensure decent pay and protection to their workers
Although gig workers are promised autonomy and flexibility, it’s their employers who benefit the most from an arrangement that leaves workers underpaid and unprotected. Without a proper work contract, gig workers effectively operate as fake freelancers, paying taxes and social security in lieu of their employer. Not only that, but the technology companies that employ them often take a cut of their earnings. The expenses and time needed to complete tasks also come out of the worker's own pocket. This makes it difficult for gig workers to have a decent take-home income.
The pandemic has shed further light on the precarious nature of their work. Whilst employers were called to allow workers to work from home or ensure adequate protections in the workplace, gig workers remained without guaranteed social protections. During their work, they are subjected to a constant surveillance system, which includes customer ratings, time constraints, response rates and GPS features. This creates an intense pressure to get as many jobs done in as little time as possible. Cyclists and scooter drivers are already among the most vulnerable road users and having to rush to keep up with the demands of the algorithm can lead them to take risks. These working conditions, in which gig workers are isolated and easily replaceable – also make it extremely difficult for them to advocate for their rights or gain any bargaining power.
The largest profiteers of the pandemic are currently doing the least to help us recover from it. Technology companies are taking advantage of the regulatory loopholes that enable them to avoid paying their share of taxes and paying their workers a fair wage. These companies can afford to pay their workers a fair wage, but they chose not to, despite detrimental impact it has on the lives of their employees.
Power to the Gig Workers!
The EU has recently embarked as a pioneer on AI legislation, with the European Commission publishing a Proposal for a Regulation on Artificial Intelligence on April 21. The Artificial Intelligence Act includes the need for safety assessments and increased transparency when it comes to AI development and implementation. Nevertheless, not much action has yet been taken to protect the rights of gig workers specifically. The European Greens have been working on the issues that affect gig workers since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
Our resolution ‘Power to the gig-workers: guarantee the socio-economic protections of gig-workers', includes the following demands to the EU and national governments:
- Ensure that companies operating within the platform economy, for example by distributing tasks via mobile apps, are paying salary, tax and costs in line with other actors, as well as tariff agreements, and do not contribute to false freelance practices
- Ensure that gig-workers have equal social protections, including health and work-related accident insurance, equality protections, parental benefits and rights, and pensions provided by the platform companies and governments
- Ensure gig-workers the right to collective bargaining over working rights, and to form unions and workers’ cooperatives
- Implement a minimum or living income, with respect to national security systems; suggest a limit on working hours per week for workers under false self-employment; prevent forced over-time and support a work-life balance
- Require platform and other companies to properly employ gig-workers under false self-employment
- Introduce a proper regulation and taxation of platform companies and reinforce the fight against tax evasion
In terms of AI, we also demand that they:
- Guarantee the transparency of the algorithm and the criteria that are used to determine the distribution of tasks and the price being paid for them and give gig-worker representatives the right of co-determination regarding those algorithms
- Provide protection for gig-workers against pre-existing societal biases embedded in algorithms, for example based on gender or race and ethnicity
Reimagining our conditions of work for 2021 and beyond
The digitalisation and robotisation of the workplace have already had a vast impact on the labour market, causing job losses, changes in professional requirements, and most importantly a deterioration of the working conditions that have been fought for in the last decades. The pandemic has exacerbated the speed at which these technologies are having an impact on our workplaces.
The Greens are facing this challenge by envisioning future-oriented solutions that not only allow us to safeguard worker’s rights but also to rethink work itself. Alexandra Geese, MeP and member of the Greens/EFA group, has spearheaded a demand to close the Digital Gender Gap and ensure that half of the Corona funds go towards women. Jean Lambert, who was a British Green MEP last term, is also currently a committee member responsible for the Future of Work Policy Lab, which seeks to address excessive working hours and income inequality by exploring possible futures of work.
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