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Labour law

2019

The conference “The Future of Work: Today. Tomorrow. For all” hosted by the European Commission brought together the President Jean-Claude Junker, Vice-President Valdis Dombroviskis, Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, Ministers, representatives from EU institutions, national governments, social partners, civil society, and academia to explore how the developments in the world of work could benefit workers, businesses and the economy similarly. The EU proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights to face the rapid transformations enabled by technological and digital developments. Among the discussions, the following highlight aspects emerged from the meeting: a. the EU wants the European social model to be preserved and enhanced despite any technological transformation in the means of work. This will only be possible if the EU set out a roadmap with concrete actions; b. the digital economy needs to be inclusive and workers facing job loss or transitions need support; c. supporting labour market transitions requires adequate investment; and d.  strengthening a global level playing field by intensifying cooperation with other organisations and partner is crucial to promote decent work. ​

The new report “The future of work: litigating labour relationships in the gig economy”, released by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, indicates that “the gig economy is the frontline in the battle for the future of labour rights”. It states that the new technology has enabled start-ups like Uber and Deliveroo to become international corporations with only a few employees and with the majority of its workforce misclassified as self-employed. This business model is based on not paying for workers’ social protection and seriously jeopardise labour rights. The report includes facts and figures on the development of the gig economy across the world, recent case law defying the self-employment status of workers in the sector, and stakeholder responses. The report calls on online intermediary companies to classify their workers as employees with full labour rights and protections, to eliminate forced arbitrations clauses from their contracts, and to “introduce human rights policies with proper remediation to live up to their responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights”. The report also argued that legislative reforms are necessary to incentivize sharing economy companies to classify their workers as employees. Deliveroo responded by saying that flexible work enabled by sharing economy platforms is the new way of working and “is here to stay”.

Los Angeles ride-hail drivers working for Uber and Lyft turned off their apps for 25 hours in protest of low wages. The organising group Rideshare Drivers United said the strike was triggered by Uber’s decision to reduce per-mile pay. Drivers have complained that their working experience in these companies has become worse over the time. In many cities, drivers have organised informal groups to defend their rights within public authorities. In 2018, New York City passed a minimum wage of $17,22 per hour after drivers’ protests.

In 2013, the ride-hailing platform was sued by a class of 385.000 drivers claiming they were employees of Uber and not independent contractors.  The case encompassed drivers from California and Massachusetts who did not agree with Uber’s policy of classifying drivers as independent contractors. Besides the cash settlement, Uber compromised to modify its businesses practices in the two states, including: a. the driver will no longer have their account deactivated for low usage rates; b. the platform will publish a comprehensive policy online and will provide notice before deactivating a driver’s account; c. the platform will provide for quality courses for drivers who have their account deactivated. This settlement is distinct in size from the original 2016 settlement. In 2016, Uber agreed to pay $100 million to 385.000 drivers, but the federal judge rejected the amount ruling it was too low. After the decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit limited the size of the class to 13.600 drivers due to Uber’s arbitration clause accepted by a vast number of drivers. Ultimately, the drivers will receive around $ 0.37 cents per mile driven for Uber.

The report ‘Adult Learning in Italy: What Role for Training Funds?’, published on 11 March, states that digitalisation and globalization are rapidly changing the skills needed by workers. As a consequence of the introduction of technologies in workplaces, 15.2% of job positions have an imminent risk of automation, while 35.5% may suffer relevant changes to how they are performed. Currently, according to the report, only 20% of adults participate in job-relating training in Italy, which is half the OECD average. This percentage is even lower for low-skilled adults: 9.5%. Based on this data, the Italian government should address the challenge of unskilled workers by investing more in adult learning and making it public policy.  

 

OECD released the report Getting Skills Right: Future-Ready Adult Learning urging countries to scale-up and upgrade their adult learning system to enable people to be adapted to the changings of the labour market. The report highlights critical areas for reform in adult training. It outlines the future-readiness of all countries members of the OECD. It recommends countries to provide targeted support for the low skilled, the unemployed, migrants and older people. In addition, it suggests that countries should ensure adequate public financing and tax incentives to contribute through training. Greece and Slovak Republic perform poorly in most dimensions of future readiness.

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