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Uber CEO Promises Gig Workers Better Rights Ahead of EU Laws

A food delivery courier working for Uber Eats, operated by Uber Technologies Inc., pushes a bicycle past a restaurant in the Soho district of London, U.K., on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. Covid-19 lockdown enabled online and app-based grocery delivery service providers to make inroads with customers they had previously struggled to recruit, according the Consumer Radar report by BloombergNEF.

Uber Technologies Inc. Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said he was “ready to do more and go much further” to improve social protection for so-called gig economy workers in Europe, but that new legislation was needed.

“The current legal ambiguity on the status of independent workers makes it difficult for platforms like Uber to provide both access to flexible work and to social protections,” Khosrowshahi said via email.

The European Union also wants to improve the working conditions of platform workers, and Khosrowshahi’s comments precede the European Commission publishing ideas for how this could be achieved. Those recommendations are expected later this month, with legislative proposals possible by the end of the year.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief, has for instance said regulators are considering exemptions to competition rules for organized labor to allow platform workers to discuss wages without running afoul of the bloc’s rules. The Uber chief said it’s key that drivers maintain the flexibility to choose when they work.

Meanwhile, some gig workers in California are challenging Prop 22, a ballot measure bankrolled by Uber and other platforms. This designates app-based drivers as contractors under state law — rather than employees entitled to protections like sick pay and worker’s compensation –- though it provides for some alternative benefits.

Read more: Uber, Lyft Drivers Sue to Overturn California Ballot Measure

Khosrowshahi said some principles from Prop 22 could be applied in Europe, including rules that guarantee independent workers access to benefits and protections without the need for litigation.

In a white paper published Monday and sent to the European Commission, Uber offered suggestions such as establishing a portable benefits fund, letting platform workers accrue funds from different companies to access protections and benefits they want.

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