Government has sided with platform operators over workers

Senator Marie Sherlock
07 February 2024
  • Government must answer questions on role in blocking approval of Platform Workers Directive

Labour workers’ rights spokesperson Marie Sherlock has said the Government must answer questions about why it blocked approval of the EU Directive on Platform work.

Questioning the Government’s motivation in prioritising online platform owners over the thousands of platform workers, Senator Sherlock said many of these workers eek out a very precarious existence with no security of income, employment or social security.

Senator Sherlock highlighted Government’s failure to grasp the realities of the world of work in Ireland given that a 25-page Department of Finance report on self employment, published last week, failed to make a single reference to bogus self employment or indeed the growth of platform work as source of growth for self-employment.

Senator Sherlock said:

“The draft EU Directive on platform workers would have ensured that all workers would be presumed to be employees once they fulfilled a specific set of criteria, or tests.

“The burden of proof would be on the employer to prove otherwise, and, importantly, it included protections for workers on the use of algorithms to monitor and allocate work.

“This Directive could have been ground-breaking in the effort to end bogus self-employment that has become synonymous with platform work. It would have actively set out protections for workers in the face of increased algorithmic use in how workers are monitored and remunerated.

“At the heart of platform work in the gig economy is an enormous power imbalance between the platform and the worker.

“Had this Directive passed, workers would have certain entitlements to transparency on the decision making systems and platforms would be banned from using certain specified information such as race, migration status, biometric data, trade union activism or other personal information to profile workers and making decisions on their pay and work allocation accordingly.

“While the Government’s public commentary on the Directive had been vaguely positive last year, behind closed doors they failed some of the most precarious workers in our State and joined 12 other EU member states in blocking the Directive at EU Council just a week before Christmas.

“We have to ask what prompted the rejection of the Directive and what lobbying led the Irish position to take the side of the platforms themselves rather than the workers.

“Furthermore, we also have to ask why Government has sat on their hands since the hugely significant Supreme Court decision on Domino pizza drivers last year which determined that they were incorrectly classified by their employer as self employed.

“In 2021, Labour Party published legislation to end bogus self-employment and provide for an automatic classification of all workers as employees, along with explicit transparency requirements in the use of algorithms. Progress is desperately needed here in Ireland and across the EU.

“According to European Commission analysis in 2021, there are 28 million platform workers in the EU, and 93% if these are currently classified as self-employed. That number is expected to almost double to 43 million by 2025, yet the employment protections afforded to these workers are utterly lacking.

“Workers should not have to pay a price for our convenience. It’s time to strengthen workers’ rights in the digital age. We need to recognise there are new ways of working but that does not mean that these workers are no less employees. We need to add to our rules to make sure the best protections are in place for workers. We need to find out what side this Government is on.”

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