As European cities came to a standstill over the past year, platform workers have played a critical role in continuing to move what matters. Drivers transported tens of thousands of frontline workers and are now helping people get to vaccination centres, while couriers are providing essential home delivery services for millions of people and businesses across the region.
But just as platform workers have proven themselves to be an essential part of the world around us, the pandemic has highlighted that there is still too much uncertainty about how this important type of work is classified and protected.
After taking an honest look at how our platform has benefited workers—and, importantly, how it hasn’t—we’re committing to change. We believe independent workers across Europe deserve better: work that offers flexible and decent earning opportunities when they want it, and protection and benefits when they need it.
That’s why today we published a white paper, A Better Deal, calling on policymakers, platform companies and social representatives across Europe to come together to set a new standard for platform work. This needs to be grounded in the principles drivers and couriers say are most important to them: flexibility and control over when and where they want to work, earning a decent wage, access to relevant benefits and protections, and meaningful representation. To make a real difference, reform must also be industry-wide, requiring all platform companies to offer benefits and protections that are standardised across the sector, so that workers are protected no matter which apps they use.
We believe a new approach is possible—one where having access to protections and benefits doesn’t come at the cost of flexibility and of job creation. We need clear, progressive laws that recognise the value of this unique type of independent work and pave the way for better protecting it. For example, in France a series of reforms has pushed the industry to ensure greater transparency and control for independent workers, while giving them more protections such as mandatory insurance and vocational training.
We also recognise a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t suitable across Europe. Better protections and benefits for platform work will be different from country to country. And yet, Europe is about unity through diversity. We must all work together to ensure the well-being of independent workers, no matter where they work or which app they choose to use.
At a time when we need more jobs, not less, we believe Uber and other platforms can be a bridge to a sustainable economic recovery, if together with governments and other platform companies we establish a better standard of platform work for all.
Fair and transparent earnings
In 2020, more than 600,000 people across Europe used an Uber app to access flexible earning opportunities. While this has been critical in helping drivers and couriers support themselves and their families, 48% said financial difficulties have been their top concern in 2020. Platform companies must now do more to guarantee fair pay for work performed on apps.
At a fundamental level, we believe all independent workers deserve to earn a decent wage, regardless of the platform they choose to work on. This means ensuring all work completed on platforms is adequately compensated.
We’re calling on policymakers, other platforms and social representatives to move quickly to build a framework for flexible earning opportunities, with industry-wide standards that all platform companies must provide for independent workers.
This could include introducing new laws such as the legislation recently enacted in California. Or based on a more European model of social dialogue, where platform workers, policymakers and social representatives work together to set earning principles. For example, in Italy the food delivery industry and the General Labour Union recently signed an agreement confirming the self-employed status of couriers while adding a new set of protections such as minimum earnings, mandatory insurance and the freedom to work when and where they want.
Critically, whatever the model, there must be an industry level playing field to ensure all independent workers have consistent earnings whichever app they choose to work on.
More protections and relevant benefits
All workers, irrespective of their employment status, should have access to protections. Uber led the way in 2018 by becoming the first platform to offer workers access to comprehensive injury and protection insurance in partnership with AXA—providing industry leading death and disability protection, sick pay, occupational injury insurance, and maternity and paternity payments. But if workers choose to work on another platform, the same protection is not guaranteed.
We need new solutions to standardise and improve access to protections and benefits for independent workers, and believe reform is needed to modernise the social safety net. This could include helping platform workers pay into existing public social protection schemes. Or it could mean an industry-funded portable benefits fund, allowing platform workers to accrue funds to access to the protections and benefits they want—whether it’s paid time off or to support long-term life goals like starting a family or enhancing their education.
Together, we must build new solutions for today’s new world. Everyone should play a part, whether through government-mandated and proportional contributions to existing frameworks, or by complementing what exists with industry-funded solutions to fill in gaps in protection and savings.
We believe our industry must take new steps towards meaningful participation and innovative approaches to dialogue. We are convinced that good social dialogue mechanisms can help platforms and workers. We are already actively participating in initiatives to develop more appropriate representation for platform workers, such as the European Commission’s review of potential barriers to collective bargaining.
We remain open and committed to working with our peers, workers and industry associations to build the right representation models for platform work, and ensure accountability for delivering on commitments. And while we wait for a built-for-purpose regulatory framework, we recently launched a consultation process with more than 18,000 European drivers and couriers to develop representation and social dialogue models that meet their needs. We will publicly report the full results of the consultation, no matter what they say.
The time to act is now
When we need more jobs, not fewer, we believe Uber and other platforms can be a bridge to a sustainable economic recovery, if together with governments and social representatives we establish a better deal for all platform workers.