When the situation and working conditions struggle to find the right model

Tuesday, January 11, 16-year-old bike delivery worker Deliveroo died in Lille, after being crushed by a truck. The teenager was underage to officially work for this company. A tragic accident once again highlights the difficult working conditions of these new workers working on delivery platforms.

In France, they will be, like him, between 55,000 VTC drivers and 60,000 cyclists. And above all, their number is constantly growing: with the spread of the epidemic, the home delivery service has experienced an amazing growth. According to a Crédoc study in May 2020, 20% of French people receive meals delivered to their homes, and it even reaches 35% in Paris and in major cities. And for Pascal Hebel, Director of Consumer and Business at Crédoc, “There can be no going back, the movement has begun and will continue to consolidate.”

Meal delivery: the new obsession for French urbanites

Despite the instability, the desire to remain independent

Despite the increased demand, the methods of practicing this profession are still fraught with dangers. “It’s the modern astrologer.”, summarizes Jonathan Cadot, an attorney specializing in labor law at Lepany & Associés, who knows the sector well. Extended working hours, low wages, lack of recognition, and risk of accidents: this is the common thing for these unpaid but self-employed workers of the 21st century. They connect to online platforms that provide them with a task to complete, and get paid for that delivery, when a reward is paid on the platform for the passage.

For Fabian Tosolini, project manager at Independent Union, a CFDT affiliate that advocates for these assets, drivers and conductors have no other solution than to agree to the sequence of hours: “Which is not without causing safety problems for them, but also for travelers or for the goods they transport”. And for good reason, we often stray from the 48-hour week limit for employees, which is dictated by European law. We often come close to doubling that.

However, many delivery workers refuse to switch to paid work, which is a more protective situation. Like Tarek, 30, a delivery man in Marseille, who absolutely wants to remain independent and work on several platforms, such as Uber Eats, or Delivroo:

“I like the relationship with the client, but above all the freedom of this profession. I choose when to work, when to call, if I am an employee this will not be possible.”

Tariq made his calculations: he could earn daily, between 80 and 130 euros, with time slots interspersed between 11 am and 2 pm, and then in the evening, between 7 pm and 10 pm. And very bad, if he travels 150-250 kilometers per day on two wheels. After three years of practice, Tariq is campaigning for better working conditions, such as minimum income for peak hours, or even bonuses when the weather is tough…

“It may not be all perfect, but we must not forget the improvements we have made in so short a time”defends Bastien Pahus, General Manager, at Ubert East, one of the leaders in the sector.

For example, by simply registering on the platform, delivery employees since 2017 have benefited from AXA Insurance, which covers their medical expenses in the event of an accident, but also compensates them in the event of a layoff or injury. The American giant also insists on prevention and awareness measures that are implemented in the face of accidents: training, partial coverage of equipment, specific helmets or jackets …

Start structuring the social dialogue in the sector

To bolster the rights of these new assets, Fabian Tosolini is relying a lot on the first professional elections that will take place between May 9-16. All organizations and gatherings wishing to introduce themselves can do so between January 24 and February 18. Those who collect at least 5% of the vote will be recognized as representatives.

It remains to be seen who will vote. Each of this trade is fragmented and by individual definition. The risk of abstention is particularly high. Mobilizing employees is really difficult, so the self-employed is even more difficult.Fabian Tosolini notes.

“The appointment of these representatives should then enable agreements on remuneration, health at work, and vocational training within the platforms.”according to Labor Secretary Elizabeth Bourne.

It remains to be seen how the EOs will be regulated. The 120 platforms identified in France struggle to agree on common interests, rather in a competitive logic. In the absence of a professional association, there is an organization, API. A sign that if the concept of social dialogue is gradually taking hold, it is still far from optimal.

dependency status

For Gilbert Thiss, Economist and Research Professor at Néoma, it is through this that standards of protection adapted to these new professions are born. Author of the book with Jacques Barthelemy Work and Technological Change – From Factory Civilization to Digital Civilizationpublished by Odile Jacob, welcomes the fact that France is moving in this direction, and that it does not turn to all wage labor as in Spain or Switzerland.

“We have to adapt to the digital age, and it is very good that France is trying to create an intermediary centre,” he notes.

The French model wants, in effect, to preserve the status of the self-employed, while providing a minimum of security for the workers, through a base of basic rights that can be supplemented with additional protection.

This path, however, is not the path of the European Commission’s line, which is working to direct the regulation of these positions. Last December, the Foundation submitted a text aimed at ensuring a professional status corresponding to the actual conditions for these activities.

It is a matter of determining, according to specific criteria, whether the platform is an employer by determining the degree of control it exercises over the worker – according to the degree of remuneration, the method of controlling remote work, and not allowing the choice of working hours, which limits the ability of the worker to form his customers , etc. If two criteria are met, the worker is considered an employee, and benefits from all dependent protection measures.

Protection of private assets and unemployment insurance: Senate adopts the Self-Employed Act

Threatening jobs from giants

A text that major VTC bosses like Uber are rebelling against. They believe the European Commission’s project risks cutting thousands of driver jobs. Their argument: They will not be able to offer a minimum number of hours and workloads to all drivers, and the latter, associated with the agility and flexibility that independence provides, will shy away from this activity. Believe them, what happened in Geneva or Spain, which resulted in a short supply of customers. ” everyone loses”Uber argues.

In any case, this text – which has been discussed within the European Union – if adopted, will not see the light of day until 2023.” For now, the judiciary is groping, and it is being built. The issue of subordination, and dependence on the chief, is far from resolved.”Jonathan Cadot continues.

to read | Uberization: Will freelance platform workers become employees?

according to him, “What further complicates the situation is that the positions are very heterogeneous between a consultant who has the means to negotiate with these platforms, or even rejecting the proposed tasks, and the delivery person, who is in a precarious position, and cannot influence. There is a chasm that the law, at present, fails to bridge. »

E-commerce also works with employees

However, if a large part of e-commerce is dependent on the self-employed, it also has, in France, thousands of salaried workers. Some are executives, engineers, designers, others are logisticians, maintenance workers…

They all work for giants like Amazon, or in companies like La Redoute, La Poste, etc. There also, in the face of the diversity of situations, it is difficult to find the appropriate legislation.

“In these warehouses, conditions are very difficult, the organization is very hierarchical, stresses Jonathan Cadot, who has advocated for Amazon employees. Career plans are very limited, and the relationship between the employee and the boss remains unbalanced”.

Description rejected by the leaders of these groups. Thus, Amazon ensures that the base salary for example will be 26% higher than Smic’s after 24 months in the company, with the thirteenth month paid. Not forgetting the bonuses, the distribution of free shares, a participation that amounts to an average of 900 euros per year …

Result: according to the company, turnover – about 10% – is lower than the sector average – 15%. As for the situation, Amazon ensures that most employees are on permanent contracts, and while it continues its expansion policy in France, it creates hundreds of jobs every year in many regions.

Consumer contradiction

This is also one of the main arguments put forward by the American giant, which today employs almost 15,000 employees in France. Just like the social promotion offered to workers who do not have degrees or who have poor qualifications. “We provide solutions for students to complete their studies, for employees who supplement their income with a second activity, or for the unemployed with no prospects”These companies also insure.

However, the death of a temporary worker at an Amazon warehouse in Eason in mid-January has revived debate about the difficulty of working in these logistics sheds, and potential security failures.

As for the belief that the pressure can come from consumers, Pascal Hebel from Crédoc sets the record straight:

“They criticize the working conditions of these VTC drivers or workers who work in these remote sales chains, some of them even campaign against setting up warehouses in the regions, etc… but they are the first to use it.”

According to her, this paradox – quite classic – cannot go away. Also, we will have to wait longer before we find a suitable model and apply it to these workers.

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