Photo credits: Odua Images

On Tuesday, 28 September 2021, the French National Assembly ratified a government decree on representation modalities for platform workers. As of 2022, drivers and couriers working for platforms will be able to hold trade union elections – allowing them to better negotiate working conditions and in particular fees.

Backed by 41 votes to 20, the text provides for a ‘single-round national election by electronic voting’. Organisations will have to gain at least 5% of votes cast to be recognised as representative. The text also foresees the establishment of a specific authority for dealing with social relations on employment platforms (Autorité des relations sociales des plateformes d’emploi or ‘Arpe’ for short), which will be responsible for holding the union elections. It will be financed by a tax paid by the platforms.

According to Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne, the aim of the decree is to ‘create the conditions for a structured and organised social dialogue’, adding that ‘the development of platforms should not be contested on principle or ideology’. This text, which also allows the government to decree further measures, is expected to make it possible to ‘better protect workers’ rights without calling into question existing statuses’.

It is this last point that was contested by the opposition, denouncing the emergence of a ‘third status’ that ‘institutionalises Uberisation’. Socialist Boris Vallaud said that the government was barking up the wrong tree, as countries across Europe were increasingly recognising platform workers as employees. MEP Adrien Quatennens called for a ‘reversal of the burden of proof’ by requiring platforms to prove the absence of an employment relationship.

Although deemed to be self-employed, platform workers are often subject to the same relationship of subordination as that binding any employee to his/her employer. Such ‘bogus’ self-employment allows platforms to avoid paying certain employer charges normally due in the case of wage work. In France, several court decisions have led to a reclassification of the contractual relationship by demonstrating proof of legal subordination. Similarly, several court decisions in favour of reclassification have been handed down in countries such as Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Elisabeth Borne gave an assurance that ‘these decrees in no way detract from a judge’s power to qualify as an employee a worker who is not really self-employed’.

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