Institutions / Legislation - Europe
Industry Report: European Policy
The European Commission approves guidelines on collective agreements by solo self-employed professionals
FERA has welcomed the measure, which will protect the rights of self-employed authors to bargain collectively, including freelance directors
On Thursday 29 September, the European Commission adopted its guidelines on the application of EU competition law to collective agreements regarding the working conditions of solo self-employed people. The guidelines provide clarification on when exactly certain self-employed individuals can get together to collectively negotiate better working conditions without breaching current EU competition rules.
To be precise, the guidelines state that “competition law does not apply to solo self-employed people who are in a situation comparable to workers”, including “solo self-employed people who provide services exclusively or predominantly to one undertaking; who work side-by-side with workers and provide services to or through a digital labour platform.” As such, the EC will not enforce competition rules upon collective agreements made by solo self-employed people since they are recognised as being “in a weak negotiating position.” Such a change will be beneficial, for example, “when solo self-employed people face an imbalance in bargaining power due to negotiations with economically stronger companies or when they bargain collectively pursuant to national or EU legislation.”
The EC is tasked with monitoring how these guidelines will be adopted at a national level via the European Competition Network and via dedicated meetings with European Social Partners, with the results set to be reviewed by 2030. The scope of the provision is “not limited to solo self-employed people working through digital labour platforms” but “also covers instances of solo self-employed people active in the offline economy.”
As explained by Executive Vice-President of a Europe Fit for the Digital Age and Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, “Solo self-employed people in the digital economy and beyond may not be able to negotiate good working terms individually and may therefore have to contend with difficult working conditions. Coming together to negotiate collectively can be a powerful tool for improving such conditions. The new guidelines aim to provide legal certainty for solo self-employed people by clarifying when competition law won’t stand in the way of their efforts to negotiate collectively for a better deal."
The measure was warmly welcomed by the Federation of European Screen Directors (FERA). According to their official press release: “In the vast majority of cases, directors are freelancers with little to no access to social benefits. Data has shown that, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, European audiovisual authors’ media income was as low as it was unstable due to their systemic, weak position in negotiating their individual contracts. Directive 2019/790 on Copyright in the Digital Single Market addresses this imbalance by setting out new harmonized rights to achieve fair remuneration in authors’ and performers’ contracts, and points to collective bargaining as an essential tool to exercise them efficiently”.
The full guidelines, published in all EU languages, can be accessed here.
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