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EU to allow self-employed to bargain collectively
Margrethe Vestager (executive vice-president in charge of competition policy)

29 Sep 2022 / employment Print

EU to allow self-employed to bargain collectively

The European Commission has adopted new guidelines on how solo self-employed people can negotiate collectively to improve working conditions without breaching EU competition rules.

The Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) prohibits agreements between undertakings that restrict competition.

The commission says that, while collective agreements between employers and workers are not subject to EU competition rules, self-employed people are considered ‘undertakings’, and risk infringing competition rules when negotiating collectively on their fees or other trading conditions.

Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager (pictured) said that solo self-employed people in the digital economy and beyond might not be able to individually negotiate good working terms, and might therefore face difficult working conditions.

‘Powerful tool’

She added that getting together to collectively negotiate could be “a powerful tool” to improve such conditions.

Vestager stated that the new guidelines  aimed to provide legal certainty to solo self-employed people, by clarifying when competition law did not stand in the way of their efforts to negotiate collectively.

They apply to solo self-employed people who work completely on their own, and do not employ others.

‘Weak position’

The guidelines make it clear that competition law does not apply to solo self-employed people that are in a situation comparable to workers.

These include solo self-employed people who:

  • Provide services exclusively or predominantly to one undertaking,
  • Work side-by-side with workers, and
  • Provide services to or through a digital labour platform.

The commission also says that it will not enforce EU competition rules against collective agreements made by solo self-employed people who are in “a weak negotiating position”.

“This is, for instance, 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 EU body says.

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