On 30 June 2020, the Commission launched a consultation process on the issue of the competition rules (art. 101 TFEU) standing in the way of the possibility to engage in collective bargaining for certain self-employed workers, such as platform workers, in the On-Demand Economy, who could use this instrument to improve their working conditions.
While for employees, the CJEU has long since recognised that collective bargaining is a valid exception to the EU competition rules (CJEU 21 September 1999, Albany, C-67/96), the same certainty cannot be found in situations where the bargaining parties are not employees, but rather self-employed workers. According to EU competition law, self-employed workers are considered “undertakings” and the agreements they enter into (such as collective bargaining agreements) may therefore be captured by the EU competition rules, and may constitute a prohibited cartel agreement.
One of the main social policy goals of the von der Leyen Commission is the improvement of the working conditions of platform workers. Collective bargaining can be an important tool to support such an improvement. While platform workers may at times qualify for consideration as “self-employed workers” (although the debate on this question is far from over), they are often economically dependent on the platform, similar to the dependency of employees in relation to their employer.
Therefore, the current obstacle of EU competition law should be addressed. In this first stage, the EU Commission is engaging with social partners and consulting stakeholders from the public and private sectors, including competition authorities and government bodies, academia, as well as legal and economic practitioners, trade unions and employers’ organisations, in order to assess whether it is necessary to adopt measures at the EU level. A first assessment is expected in the autumn of 2020, which will be followed by a public consultation.
For more information, please read the press release of the EU Commission.