Uber calls for EU rules that protect contractor status

15 Feb 2021

Image: © Aleksei/Stock.adobe.com

The company is proposing Europe follow California in enacting rules that maintain workers as contractors but with some benefits.

Uber is urging EU lawmakers to maintain the independent contractor status of its workers.

The ride-hailing and food delivery giant published a paper entitled A Better Deal, where it laid out its vision for gig economy worker status.

Currently its drivers and food delivery riders are classified as independent contractors rather than employees but the company has faced criticism over this model in several jurisdictions.

Uber is arguing to maintain that contractor status in Europe but with some concessions. It harkens back to Uber’s battle in California last year when it contested a set of new labour rules that would have classified Uber workers as employees rather than contractors.

Ultimately it backed Proposition 22, which maintained its gig economy workers as contractors but with some added benefits such as minimum earnings.

Crucially, Uber avoided the formal employee tag for its workers, meaning it also avoided many of the costs of employing someone. It wants to achieve a similar outcome in Europe as well.

It said it has around 600,000 people in Europe working on its platform, whether these are drivers or delivery couriers.

“At a fundamental level, we believe all independent workers deserve to earn a decent wage, regardless of the platform they choose to work on. This means ensuring all work completed on platforms is adequately compensated,” chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said.

He added that the shape of any new rules introduced by the EU could be similar to “new laws such as the legislation recently enacted in California”.

A key element of Uber’s argument against employment is that it does not allow drivers and riders to work flexibly with other platforms. On the flip side, workers’ rights advocates have said the likes of Uber need to provide benefits and greater protections for people working on their platform.

Uber is attempting to get in front of any changes that are coming down the line in Europe as the European Commission considers regulatory changes to the way gig economy workers are classified and compensated.

The company has been involved in several spats in Europe over the status of its workers, most notably in the UK where a supreme court case on employment status is expected to reach a verdict this week.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin