French ‘gig economy’ workers to elect union reps for the first time

Elections are being held among around 120,000 employees of 'gig economy' firms such as Uber and Deliveroo in France to allow them to choose union representatives - one of the rights that they now have after being declared as employees by French courts.

French 'gig economy' workers to elect union reps for the first time

Multi-national platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo based their business modelling on saying that all their staff were ‘self-employed’ workers, however a series of court cases in France concluded that the staff are actually employees – making them entitled to benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay and union representation.

Polls will be held on Tuesday among 84,000 delivery drivers (for platforms such as Deliveroo) and 39,000 VTC drivers (for platforms like Uber) to pick their staff representation.

Among the names on the ballot are some of France’s biggest unions such as FO, CGT and Unsa, but also smaller employee representative groups such as the national federations for freelancers and small businesses.

Once the staff have picked the groups that will represent them, negotiations between unions and employers will begin over issues such as minimum pay, working conditions, rest periods and the right to ‘disconnect’.

It is expected that the talks will begin in September. 

Any employees that are elected as official delegates for a union or other organisation with more than five percent of the ballots cast are protected by French law – they cannot be sacked or disciplined for their union activities and they must also be compensated for time spent on union activities.

Anyone who is an employee in France is covered by basic legal rights that protect things like the right to paid holiday, paid sick leave, maternity or paternity leave and medical cover. 

However around 90 percent of workers are also covered by a convention collective – which are agreements worked out over the years between unions/staff representatives and bosses to give extra rights or perks.

Sometimes these agreements cover only one company and sometimes they cover an entire sector, such as journalists or healthcare workers.

READ ALSO The perks and benefits that French employees enjoy

Conventions collectives vary according to the sector and workplace but they can include things like extra maternity or paternity leave days, tax breaks, extra allowances for travel or meals or an agreement that the employer will pay 100 percent of the employee’s mutuelle health cover (as opposed to the 50 percent mandated in law).

If you are covered by a convention collective, it will be listed on your payslip. You can then look up the agreement online and see what you might be entitled to.

READ ALSO How to understand your French payslip

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Heatwave sends France’s employees back to the office – for the air con

As France swelters under an unusually early heatwave many employees who had been working remotely since the pandemic have headed back to the office - in order to benefit from the air conditioning.

Heatwave sends France's employees back to the office - for the air con

Flexible working practices – a mix of in-office and at-home working – have become increasingly common in France since the Covid lockdowns proved that some jobs can be done just as easily from home as in the office. 

During the lockdowns, télétravail (remote working) was compulsory for those whose jobs allowed it, it then became recommended but since late 2021, flexible working practices and work-from-home has been a matter for discussion between workers and their bosses.

A study by Insurance firm Malakoff Humanis has found that 38 percent of employees in France still do at least one day of télétravail per week.

READ ALSO Can your boss force you to work during a heatwave in France?

But, with France currently burning under a ferocious early summer heatwave that is expected to send temperature records tumbling, office space is quickly filling up.

Air-con is rare in French homes, but many office spaces have it and workers are keen to avail themselves of the cool air.

“I came for the air conditioning because I didn’t need to come to work today,” one office worker in the capital told Le Parisien. “This Friday, I’m officially remote working, but I’ll be here [in the office].”

Météo France expected the temperature to reach 35C in the capital on Friday. In the southwest of the country, the mercury was expected to pass 40C in cities including Bordeaux and Toulouse.

One Bordeaux computer engineer told the paper: “At home, it gets hot pretty quickly, you can easily reach 30C. It’s much more pleasant to work with a regulated temperature, without abusing the air conditioning for ecological reasons.”

And a financial manager – working shirtless and in shorts in his top-floor apartment in Marseille – said he regretted not bothering going into the office as the heat bit. 

“If I open the windows, the hot wind blows in. When the windows are closed, I cook,” he said.