Uber set to face dual backlash in Brussels – POLITICO

Uber set to face dual backlash in Brussels – POLITICO

Ride-hailing platform Uber is about to endure fallout from July’s Uber Files investigation into its past lobbying tactics — just as work on new regulation ramps up.

Some of the company’s longtime foes will convene in Brussels on Thursday to voice discontent with the Uber Files revelations and in turn funnel that anger into shaping both a planned hearing in Parliament and new rules for classifying platform workers.

The Left political group is holding an event in Parliament in the morning, addressing “the fight against Uberisation,” with dozens of platform workers expected to attend. Meanwhile, European taxi federations called for a demonstration the same day, and are expected to protest in front of the European Commission’s headquarters. Brussels police warned of traffic disturbances ahead of the protest.

Protesters will try to put pressure on Parliament as its hashes out the details of a hearing on the Uber Files. Political group coordinators in the employment committee have already agreed to convene a hearing in October, and are set to firm up the practicalities Thursday, according to two people familiar with the discussions. A key remaining question: whether to invite whistleblower Mark MacGann, who leaked a trove of internal documents.

“I hope it will be with Mark MacGann; he told me that he’s OK [to attend],” French Left MEP Leïla Chaibi, who is organizing the Parliament event and has called for a hearing, told POLITICO.

While the documents date to 2013-2017, Uber’s opponents also hope that the revelations will help their argument for tighter regulation in the future.

Lawmakers in both Parliament and Council are currently mulling a Commission proposal on platform work, which would reclassify up to 4.1 million workers, including Uber drivers, as employees instead of independent contractors. The lead lawmaker in Parliament, S&D’s Elisabetta Gualmini, even suggested raising that number, while the Czechs, currently holding the Council presidency, have kept their options open, seeking feedback from EU member countries on whether they want to strengthen or weaken the proposal.

“It’s a crucial moment. It’s not very common that so many stakeholders are part of a legislative procedure,” Chaibi said, adding that lawmakers now face a choice: to either serve Uber’s interest or to go for an ambitious regulation on expanding workers’ rights.

While Thursday won’t be a fun day for Uber, the company might have a better idea afterward of how to proceed, both on the Uber Files hearing and on the negotiations of the platform work bill.

Over the summer, it was difficult for Uber lobbyists to assess whether they could approach lawmakers over platform workers’ job status. Lawmakers’ summer break gave lobbyists little insight into the scale of the Uber Files fallout. After Thursday, the company will have more clarity. And while some lawmakers, especially from leftist parties, have suggested increasing the number of platform workers up for reclassification, others have amended the text to discourage a wide reclassification. EU members, for their part, mostly just want a workable solution.

Asked for a comment about the protests, Uber referred to the statement it shared after the revelations were published in July, in which it said it would not make “excuses for past behavior.”

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