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how France lobbied against the European Commission’s proposal –

France has exerted strong pressure on the European Commission regarding the rights of platform workers, supporting in particular the removal of the rebuttable presumption of employment, a goal dear to digital platforms. This raises fears of collusion between French authorities and the platforms, according to documents obtained by EURACTIV.

The documents reveal how France lobbied the European Commission to drop the principle of rebuttable presumption of employment for platform workers, even before the proposed directive was published. Many platforms have positioned themselves fiercely against such an idea.

“The French authorities are not […] not in favor of a presumption of employment”reads a letter from the Permanent Representation of France to the EU addressed to the Commission.

This presumption would run counter to French legislation, adopted to preserve “models based on a degree of autonomy and flexibility for workers, coinciding with the economic model mainly implemented by platforms […].

The letter, written by the Social Affairs Counselor of the French Permanent Representation, Emilie Marquis-Samari, was sent on September 16, 2021.

On the same day, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the creation of a rebuttable presumption of employment, which “would facilitate the correct classification of platform workers” and would reverse the burden of proof.

In other words, the legal presumption between a platform and a worker would be that of an employer-employee relationship, unless proven otherwise by the platform – which France opposes.

Ms Marquis-Samari also expressed concern about the reversal of the burden of proof, which would lead to a “multiplication of litigation“, while 5.5 million workers could be requalified as a result of this directive, according to Commission estimates.

Instead, the letter argues that “social dialogue is a key element in reconciling these new economic activities with an improvement in the social rights and working conditions of workers using platforms“.

Ms Marquis-Samari also encourages the Commission to ” take into account the heterogeneity of the group of workers using digital platforms » and sketch ” Criteria shared to distinguish workers who are highly economically dependent on platforms from those for which social dialogue may suffice to improve working conditions“.

Fighting the principle of European criteria

The Commission’s proposal for a directive, published in December 2021, did not take France’s concerns into account. Article 4 of the proposal, which creates a “legal presumption”defines a set of five criteria, which allow “ to determine whether the platform is an “employer”. If the platform fulfills at least two of these criteria, it is legally presumed to be an employer“.

The criteria for assessing whether this restriction is effective are maintained and retained, including the setting of remuneration, binding rules related to appearance such as wearing a uniform, performance monitoring by electronic means, the restriction of the freedom to organize his working time or the possibility of working for another client.

Reclassified workers “will benefit from better working conditions”. At the same time, the true independents will benefit from more autonomy and independence ” the fact that digital platforms will adapt their practices to avoid any risk of reclassification“, specifies the Commission.

A confidential note from the General Secretariat for European Affairs, dated July 2022, and seen by EURACTIV, reveals how remote the Commission’s proposal is from French interests.

“A change in the content, number and methods of application of the criteria proposed by the directive therefore appears necessary in order to confine the presumption of employment to real situations of subordination.“.

According to the note, France hopes for a slowdown in negotiations under the Swedish EU Council Presidency from January 2023, which opposes the directive.

However,“the Spanish presidency (second half of 2023), very advanced at the national level on the subject, could choose to make it evolve in a direction quite far from the legislation french“, specifies the note.

The Permanent Representation declined to respond to EURACTIV’s questions.

The Uber Files scandal in the background

In a note made public in February 2022, the professional association Business Europe adopted a line similar to that of France: “the rebuttable presumption of employment and the five European criteria […] do not constitute a balanced and acceptable approachbecause it would lead to a“default employee status for platform workers”.

What rekindle concerns about the proximity of the French government to platform lobbies, after the Uber Files scandal.

He had revealed in July 2022 that French President Emmanuel Macron had been a partner of choice by actively supporting the establishment in France of the American company Uber when he was Minister of the Economy, between 2014 and 2016 – going to even against the decisions taken by his own government.

An official commission of inquiry should be created at the National Assembly during the month of September. A hearing dedicated to Uber Files should also see the light of day in the European Parliament in October.

Parallel negotiations in the Council of the EU and the European Parliament resume this week, and the rebuttable presumption of employment occupies a central place in the discussions.

The Czech Presidency circulated a memo in July, seen by EURACTIV, in which it asked member states to agree on a common approach on how the Commission’s criteria would trigger the presumption of employment.

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