The FGTB-UBT, the “transport” branch of the socialist union, and the Belgian division of Uber, the American mobility giant, have signed an agreement to establish social dialogue, they said on Friday, confirming information from several media . The FGTB-UBT will represent independent drivers and couriers who so wish. A first in Europe, according to her. The CSC, for its part, finds this agreement “incomprehensible”. “This is an extremely positive step,” said Tom Peeters, Deputy Federal Secretary for Transport and Logistics. History too. “We fought for years against the platforms, in particular against Uber. And that led to what? To nothing. These companies are not going to disappear (…) Belgium is a land of compromise, which you have to, it’s dialogue.”
There will also be four times a year, every quarter, between Uber officials in Belgium and trade unionists.
“The drivers will retain the freedom to work if, when and where they wish, while having the possibility of being represented by the UBT-FGTB”, specify the two parties. The socialist union will represent the interests of all drivers, regardless of their professional status.
Concretely, the agreement implies that the platform recognizes the FGTB-UBT as the representative of its independent employees and undertakes to work within the framework of consultation to improve the working conditions and income of the latter. Who will, of course, have the choice to join or not.
In total, several thousand people are affected, because the deal concerns both the “paid transport of people” subsidiaries (around 2,000 drivers) and Uber Eats, specializing in the delivery of meals (with at least 3,000 deliverers).
A permanent staff will take up residence in the Brussels “hub” at the start of 2023, where the platform’s partner drivers and couriers regularly pass.
“This agreement marks a new chapter for Uber within the European Union, that of collaboration with the unions and the commitment to represent the drivers”, comments Laurent Slits, director of operations of the American company in Belgium.
At the Christian union, the agreement is, on the other hand, welcomed with incomprehension. “It’s a complete surprise for us,” said Martin Willems of CSC United Freelancers, the branch of the union that works for unstaffed freelancers.
For him, it is incomprehensible that the FGTB reaches an agreement at this precise moment. New legislation at Belgian and European level is indeed in sight, pushing work on a platform towards the status of employee. “Why conclude an agreement before this framework is in place?” Asks Nicolas Willems. He also points out that unions are still engaged in a legal battle with platform services over that status.