African Uber Eats riders protest in Paris over ‘fraud’ dismissals

Around 500 Uber Eats riders from Africa, many without French working papers, demonstrated in Paris on Monday after the company kicked 2,500 accounts off its restaurant delivery platform that allegedly used fake identities.

African Uber Eats riders protest in Paris over 'fraud' dismissals
An Uber Eats delivery person in 2021 protests laws for thermic motor scooters. In September 2022, protests erupted over "fraud" dismissals (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

Many said they had been working for years with Uber, claiming the company was well aware that its riders are often undocumented migrants who use “borrowed” ID to open their accounts.

“I was disconnected two weeks ago, but I worked all through the lockdowns [during the Covid-19 pandemic],” 34-year-old Osseni Kone from Ivory Coast said outside the Uber Eats offices in central Paris.

“I’m asking Uber to regularise my situation so I can work freely,” he said.

The US-based company is facing growing pressure across Europe to hire riders outright as employees, instead of independent contractors, to respect the rights of “gig economy” workers.

In France, that prompted Uber Eats to audit its rider accounts after signing a charter with the government to “harmonise the oversight practices” of its platform.

It said 2,500 of the roughly 60,000 accounts overall were identified as fraudulent, and said riders whose accounts were blocked could still appeal.

“I’ve worked like this for them for three years,” said Ismael Meite, 32, also from the Ivory Coast.

“They knew full well that the ID card and the profile photo were not identical but they had no problem with it. We did a huge amount of work during Covid and now they say we’re not in order?” he said.

A colleague, also from Ivory Coast but who asked for anonymity, denounced a “brutal” dismissal, showing his 99 percent approval rating from clients on the Uber Eats app.

Uber and other delivery service operators insist the workers are self-employed, and courts across Europe have issued contradictory decisions — sometimes forcing companies to provide standard labour contracts, at other times upholding their status as independent contractors.

Last April in France, a Paris court fined the British meal delivery group Deliveroo after finding it guilty of “undeclared labour” for using freelance riders who should have been classified as employees, depriving the state of millions of euros in payroll taxes.

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Biden hosts Macron for banquet as French president blasts ‘aggressive’ US subsidies

France's Emmanuel Macron was set to be hosted by President Joe Biden at the White House Thursday for a state visit mixing sumptuous ceremonies with hard-edged talks on transatlantic trade and how to manage a rising China.

Biden hosts Macron for banquet as French president blasts 'aggressive' US subsidies

A military honor guard was due to be standing ready at the White House to welcome the French leader, accompanied by his wife, Brigitte, before the two presidents meet in the Oval Office for what are expected to be substantial discussions as they seek to defuse tensions over what Macron has described as “aggressive” subsidies for US manufacturers.

They were to give a joint press conference ahead of winding up the day with a lavish dinner featuring French favorites of wine and cheese — but in both cases American-made.

The two governments have emphasized their historic links — France is the United States’ oldest ally — as well as their close partnership in the Western alliance confronting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, Macron made clear, in unusually blunt language, that he is not just in Washington to discuss the easy parts of the relationship.

At a lunch with lawmakers and business leaders Wednesday, he lashed out at Biden’s signature policy called the Inflation Reduction Act, which is set to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries, with strong backing for US-based manufacturers.

The White House touts the IRA legislation as a groundbreaking effort to reignite US manufacturing and promote renewable technologies. European Union governments are crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidizing their own green economy sector.

“This is super aggressive for our business people,” Macron said, warning that what he sees as unfair US practices will “kill” European jobs.

“The consequence of the IRA is that you will perhaps fix your issue but you will increase my problem. I’m sorry to be so straightforward,” Macron said.

The White House responded by insisting that the state visit is about the two presidents’ “warm relationship.”

US advances in the clean energy economy will help Europeans too, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. The IRA “presents significant opportunities for European firms as well as benefits to EU energy security. This is not a zero-sum game.”

In a speech later at the French embassy, Macron said the subsidies could become a real sticking point in US relations with Europe.

While voicing support for the environmental goals of the IRA, Macron said “these are choices that will split the West,” even as he agreed that ties remained solid for now.

On Wednesday evening, he and his wife joined Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for dinner in an Italian restaurant in Washington for a moment that was both private and “political,” according to an adviser to the Elysee, ahead of Thursday’s official events.

Also on Wednesday, Macron joined Vice President Kamala Harris at NASA headquarters in Washington to discuss cooperation in space — and to propose putting the first Frenchman on the Moon.

Menu and music

Macron’s two busy days in Washington will culminate Thursday with the first formal state dinner of Biden’s presidency — the grand tradition having been shelved due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Grammy-award-winning American musician Jon Batiste will perform at the banquet, which the White House said will kick off with butter-poached Maine lobster, paired with caviar, delicata squash raviolo and tarragon sauce.

The main course features beef and triple-cooked butter potatoes, before leading to the cheese course of award-winning US brands, and finally orange chiffon cake, roasted pears with citrus sauce and creme fraiche ice cream.

Washing all that down will be three different wines — all from US vineyards.

China high on agenda

Trade tensions, however, are only part of the uncomfortable flip side to the red carpet occasion.

Another gripe in Europe is the high cost of US liquid natural gas exports — which have surged to help compensate for canceled Russian deliveries.

There is also divergence on how to deal with the rise of superpower China. The question — with Washington pursuing a more hawkish tone and EU powers trying to find a middle ground — is unlikely to see much progress.

“Europe has since 2018 its own, unique strategy for relations with China,” tweeted French embassy spokesman Pascal Confavreux in Washington.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said China will be “very high on the agenda” this week but stressed that both countries share a broad approach.

“We believe that not only France, but every other member of the G7 — frankly, our NATO allies too — see the threats and challenges posed by China in the same way.”