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Europe's bid to boost gig workers' rights fails again

A Glovo delivery rider passes by a pedestrian area in Barcelona

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Europe's attempt to give workers at Uber, Deliveroo and other online platforms more social and labour rights failed a second time after France and three other countries abstained from voting on the watered-down political deal.

Belgium, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, is unlikely to muster enough support for yet another attempt, especially as the European Parliament which has to endorse a final deal, gradually winds down ahead of elections in June.

Still, it was doubtful whether the weaker provisional agreement would have benefited gig workers as it stripped out key criteria determining whether a worker was an employee, in effect maintaining the status quo which is currently based on national laws and court rulings.

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EU lawmakers and Belgium had clinched the deal last week, the second attempt after a December agreement failed to get the support of France and several other EU governments.

"The final compromise deal on the Platform Work Directive was put forward for endorsement by ambassadors at Coreper," Belgium's EU representation said on X social media. Coreper refers to the ambassadors' meeting.

"Unfortunately the necessary QMV (qualified majority voting) wasn't found," it said, adding that it will now consider the next steps.

France, Greece, Estonia and Germany refrained from voting, EU diplomats said. That in effect torpedoed the political deal.

Uber, which had lobbied against the draft rules, said any proposal must weigh drivers' and couriers' differing requirements.

"While the future of the Directive is now uncertain, what remains clear is that any EU-wide rules must maintain the independence platform workers prefer while giving them the protections they deserve," an Uber spokesperson said.

The European Transport Workers' Federation was scathing of the EU countries' failure to find a consensus.

"The failure of member states has dashed hopes that an EU directive would help end bogus self-employment and give platform workers employment contracts," the lobbying group said.

"The well-funded and highly politically connected platform lobby has used its influence in Brussels and in member states to stop any form of regulation at the EU level."

The European Commission had proposed the draft rules in 2021, with an estimated 40 million gig economy workers in the European Union in mind.

(Reporting by Foo Yun CheeEditing by Tomasz Janowski and David Evans)