BRUSSELS – A real revolution for riders. But not just for them. For all digital platform workers. In fact, the day after tomorrow, the European Commission will approve the work package developed by the Luxembourg Commissioner Nicolas schmit. And among the main measures there is a recognition: that for platforms must be considered subordinate work in all respects. So people will have to be hired. Basically the dogma of autonomous and independent activity is canceled. So you know the guys – now not always guys – who in our cities deliver pizza or burgers ordered on the various Deliveroo or Glovo to your home? Or the Uber drivers? Here, all of them were subjected to an ethereal contractual regime to say the least. The giants of the digital economy have always considered them independent workers. Often with infamous salaries and without any kind of protection. The EU intends to put an end to this “indiscipline” and will pass a directive on Wednesday – which therefore once approved by Parliament and the Council will be a real law that the member states will have to comply with – which frames that activity within the contours of the classic employee.
So if the “rider”, the driver or the online workers engaged for example in crowdwork (a sort of job or profession rented for several companies) fall within some specific characteristics, they cannot be compared to the self-employed. What are these characteristics? For example: if you do not run the business risk. That is, it does not expose its resources to bankruptcy. If he does not decide the price of the product. In these cases, then, the platform will have to hire him. And everything will be simplified by the so-called reversal of the burden of proof: that is, it will be the employer who will eventually have to prove in court that it is self-employed. Of course, hiring implies a series of protections, such as social security. The directive does not provide for the mandatory nature of a permanent contract. But the time limits of hiring will be identified by national regulations. In Italy, for example, it cannot exceed three years.
But there is another aspect of the directive that – barring last-minute unforeseen events – will strengthen the turning point: it concerns the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms to evaluate and program the service. What do you mean? Also in this case have you noticed that on your mobile phone or pc they ask you to cast a vote to the rider or driver? Those “stars” make up a set of data, together with the times and quantity of deliveries made. All this forms a real report card for that worker. And based on the processing of all these elements, the digital platform decides whether the task performed has lived up to expectations or not; and if then that “employee” (now it can be defined as such) was efficient and can be confirmed or reused. An evaluation which, however, is carried out by the computer, precisely by an algorithm. No direct relationship between employer and employee. Here, the set of parameters that regulate the algorithm must be made public with a formal communication. One way to make the “rider” aware of the yardstick by which his work is judged.
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Moreover, these same algorithms were one of the justifications used by the community executive to change direction: they represent the demonstration that there can be no equation with respect to autonomous activity. And also the concept that these workers decide for themselves if and when to work – according to the Commission – is denied by the use of artificial intelligence.
A distortion, therefore, of the legislation followed up to now. The Commission’s “package” took its cue from the model already present in Spain and from many judgments that have been handed down by various courts around Europe. The recognition of subordinate work, in fact, took place through the legal dispute in France, in Germany and precisely in Spain. In Italy, the Court of Palermo did so. And the Supreme Court pointed out that the Jobs Act actually prevents the introduction of subordination but establishes that all the protections of subordination must be applied to this new form of work.
From Wednesday, until there is the go-ahead from Parliament and the Council, a real battle will inevitably take place by the giants of the web to try to correct this system. The orientation, above all, of the European Parliament, however, is aimed at confirming the approach. Indeed, it all started with some resolutions approved by MEPs. The “package”, however, will not only include this intervention. The other horn is formed by the “Action Plan on Social Economy”. It is a set of measures to facilitate and encourage the whole world of the Third sector, of solidarity activities. It will last for ten years and will represent the “social pillar” of the European Union. The goal is to remove the legal and administrative obstacles that often make these activities difficult, if not impossible. This includes cooperation programs and the use of financial products – starting with the Grants, ie European subsidies – to finance the universe of the social economy.
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