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How the EU plans to strengthen the rights of gig-economy workers 

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Despite the EU experiencing economic growth and low unemployment in the last decade, in-work poverty has steadily increased. Since 2008, social inequalities have become a more prominent problem as wages have fallen and employment has become less stable. 

In fact, between 2010 and 2017, the number of citizens affected by in-work poverty increased from 8.3% o 9.4%, which is partly blamed on the so-called “gig economy”. 

People have been calling for better rights for gig-economy workers for some time. Now, MEPs are campaigning for their rights to be strengthened. On Wednesday, they voted in favor of creating equal labor conditions for European gig-economy workers. 

The rights these workers have varies between different EU countries. In some places, the rules fail to provide platform workers with the basic rights that other workers are entitled to, such as the minimum wage and statutory sick pay. 

Lawmakers in the EU now want the European Commission to address this issue and make a proposal to strengthen their rights within the workforce and tackle poverty. 

MEP Özlem Demirel, who led the report, said, “They are called self-employed, and things like that and they have worse working conditions. They don’t have good wages. They have no job security. For me, it is important that a framework is given and that they are seen as workers and that they can unite in trade unions and fight for collective agreements and for better wages.” 

The Commission will now make a decision on whether to make proposals to improve the rights of gig-economy workers. In addition to this, it plans to make other changes aimed at dealing with in-work poverty, like a new directive on a suitable minimum wage. 

At the moment, it’s estimated that 19 million Europeans are living in poverty, which is something the EU wants to reduce in the coming years significantly. 

Going forward, MEPs say they want to focus on ensuring the minimum wage is always above the poverty threshold and that gig-economy workers are covered by this legislation. 

 

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Economy

Why faster payments are critical to the gig economy

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More people are joining the gig economy, and a major driver of this trend — particularly for those working multiple gigs — is a need for faster access to cash to meet expenses.

The gig economy has proven flexible during the pandemic. When ride sharing cooled as fewer consumers traveled, food delivery services exploded. As Airbnb vacation rentals dropped, they were replaced by Airbnb home rentals as newly sequestered workers decided remote work could allow them to trade apartments in New York and Chicago for beach and mountain homes in Florida and Colorado.



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European Commission to consult over future of gig economy

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Photo: Shutterstock

The European Commission on Wednesday began its consultation on the rights of gig economy workers whose labour is governed by digital platforms.

The commission’s process is made up of two parts: the first, which will last six weeks, will see businesses, workers and unions consulted on “the need and direction of possible EU action to improve the working conditions in platform work”; the second, to take place later in the spring, will see concrete proposals formulated and legislation introduced if no agreement is reached in the first stage.

Among the key issues to be addressed, in addition to employment status, will be algorithmic management, collective representation and access to social protections with the EU officials aware that, according to jobs commissioner Nicolas Schmit, “there is not white and black or there is not just one-size-fits-all. There is a big variety in the world of platforms.”

First soundings suggest the commission wants to preserve platorm-based gig economy work. Margrethe Vestager, competition commissioner and chair of the Europe Fit for the Digital Age group, said: “The platform economy is here to stay– new technologies, new sources of knowledge, new forms of work will shape the world in the years ahead.”

However: “And for all of our work on the digital economy, these new opportunities must not come with different rights. Online just as offline, all people should be protected and allowed to work safely and with dignity.”

She identified the most crucial issue was “to find a balance between making the most of the opportunities of the platform economy and ensuring that the social rights of people working in it are the same as in the traditional economy” adding there was “also a matter of a fair competition and level playing field between platforms and traditional companies that have higher labour costs because they are subject to traditional labour laws.”

She said she was not looking at creating a new category of worker: “In my experience, discussions become extremely complex when you want to create a new category. We’re not in any process to create a third category. But we think that here in the consultation, it’s important that we get the feedback on exactly this.”

Uber said it welcomed the consultation: “We welcome the steps taken by the European Commission to improve the conditions of platform work,” said a spokesperson. “Any legislative initiative should be grounded in what platform workers value most – flexibility and control over their work, transparent and fair earnings, access to benefits and protections, and meaningful representation.”

Last week’s judgment in the UK Supreme Court, which ruled Uber drivers were workers because, said the judge, the relationship between it and its drivers was one of “subordination and dependency”, could lead to changes in the UK that will inform the commission’s discussion.

However, centre and left-wing political groupings in Europe are campaigning on the basis that platform workers should be employees. Alongside trade unions such as the European Transport Workers’ Federation – a participant in the consultation – they believe the onus should be on the platforms to prove that their “contractors” aren’t employees, rather than the other way round.

“To change the game of the gig economy, in principle all platform workers must be considered as employees,” said Dutch MEP Agnes Jongerius, a European parliament spokesperson for the employment and social affairs committee. Another member of the committee, French MEP Sylvie Brunet, published a draft report on the rights of platform workers this week, which called on the EU to draw up legislation to “counter bogus self-employment”.

Groups representing companies’ interests such as BusinessEurope do not wish to see an EU-wide definition of employee, which they say should be defined on a national level. Unless an agreement is reached at stage one of the European Commission’s consultation, it is likely that digital platform workers on the Continent will be subject to a patchwork of national case law for at least a year to come, because it is thought coming up with legislation will be a long drawn-out process.

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How the Gig Economy Helps American Workers, Explained

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Sure, you know that being an Uber driver is great for someone who wants to make their own hours. But did you know that many Americans are choosing freelance work because they need flexibility because of family or other responsibilities?

Did you know that small businesses rely on independent contractors? Or that Americans who were once discouraged because they couldn’t make a job work with their lifestyle are now able to work?

But unfortunately, the gig economy is under attack by leftists. In California, a new law has made many such flexible jobs illegal.

In this “Policy Lab” episode, posted above, we have the facts on the gig economy. Check it out—and if you’re interested in watching more “Policy Lab” episodes, you can view them here.



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