Gig Economy

EU Antitrust Chief Backs Gig Workers

Gig economy workers have new allies in the EU.

Uber‘s drivers and takeout delivery workers have found allies in the European Union (EU), as its antitrust chief wants to help them fight for better wages and conditions, Bloomberg reported. European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager told Bloomberg that she wanted to help people in weak negotiating positions, voicing concern about the position of workers in the gig economy, who don’t usually have people fighting for them.

Vestager expressed the desire to strike a balance with the EU’s power, leveraging it in a way to allow people to organize, but not be seen “as a cartel,” she said, talking about rules to stop price-fixing between businesses. Europe’s stringent cartel rules have drawn billions of euros from companies that have colluded to raise prices. The same rules have been used to prevent freelance workers from collectively teaming up to lobby for better pay from large corporations, such as tech giants.

Furthermore, Vestager has become the bloc’s tech chief, in an addition to her job as watchdog over antitrust issues. She wants to change some of the issues facing workers’ rights, as well as make sure that the EU helps people to unionize, because it’s “very difficult” to do so as an individual worker.

The companies, she said, are very powerful. Uber has transformed how people take rides and order food. Mergers and cooperation between companies like Takeaway and Just Eat, or Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo, have created powerful entities.

Companies like Takeaway have worked to increase the benefits offered to drivers. However, tension is still present. In 2018, Uber Eats drivers in the U.K. went on strike after benefit cuts, though there’s not much that drivers can do to protest against wages or working condition issues, as they can’t argue with the programs giving them orders.

Independent gig economy workers might be viewed by some as second-jobbers or freelancers, but many of them rely on these jobs as their sole source of income, waiting on pay — which can vary wildly from week to week.

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