Court cases and a new draft law from the European Commission are chipping away at the controversial industry. What comes next may look very different.
WHEN FORMER UBER driver Yaseen Aslam first started campaigning for app workers’ rights back in 2014, the battle felt hopeless; like a “dark tunnel.” He claims academics told him it was impossible to succeed because his fellow gig workers were too disparate and the majority were people from ethnic minorities, groups that did not have high rates of union membership. Seven years later, Aslam—now president of the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU), a group with thousands of members—can look across the UK and Europe and watch multiple court cases rule in favor of more employment rights for gig workers. “This has been a massive year,” he says. “We are now starting to see the light.”
Over the past 12 months, gig economy companies have spent a lot of time in court, as judges scrutinize a business model that promises workers more flexibility in exchange for fewer rights than traditional employees. But on December 9, the European Commission announced one of the biggest challenges to that business model yet, publishing a major new draft law designed to reshape the relationship between gig workers and the platforms that pay them. If passed, the rules could affect up to 4 million people, estimates the Commission, which suggests it is responding to a flurry of activity in national courts. “There are more than one thousand court rulings across the EU already [against] different platforms, and there are hundreds of cases still pending,” said European trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis in a press conference. “So the aim of this proposal is, among other things, to provide more clarity.”