Self-employed should have right to improve working conditions, say MEPs

Self-employed should have right to improve working conditions, say MEPs
Credit: Belga

Members of the European Parliament are calling for collective bargaining rights for self-employed workers, along with the removal of incentives for companies to falsely classify their workers as self-employed.

False self employment, or “schijnzelfstandig” in Dutch, generally refers to when companies classify workers as independent contractors in order to avoid providing them with social benefits and protections or evade paying higher taxes, but then expect those workers to act as traditional employees with a set schedule of hours and strict rules governing their workday.

The Employment and Social Affairs Committee held a meeting with Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager this week in which they enquired about Draft Guidelines on collective bargaining rights for the self-employed.

Better protected when there's a power imbalance

Their aim is to assure that the rights of self-employed people – including those working on platforms – are better protected if there is an imbalance of power between them and a company for which they work.

MEPs insisted that any new provisions should ensure legal clarity for bargaining rights, in addition to preventing bogus sub-contracting. Furthermore, they are seeking to remove the incentives to keep people on a self-employed contracts while they work alongside a company’s traditional employees performing similar tasks.

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Vestager said the guidelines to be adopted later this year should clarify when EU competition law doesn’t apply to self-employed people, allowing them to fight for better work conditions without fear of infringing EU competition law.

Currently, EU competition rules do not apply to collective bargaining between workers, including false self-employed and employers, but those who are genuinely self-employed are considered "undertakings" beneath EU competition law.

Vestager also said that the guidelines would complement the platform workers proposal and that collective bargaining powers and rules are decided at national level, not by the EU.

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