Uberization: a senatorial mission highlights the obscure role of algorithms

“Uberization” of society, “platformization” of the economy: these neologisms, embodied by Deliveroo or Uber, in particular, have entered the lives of citizens. But this phenomenon, in full expansion, must be supervised so that it does not become “The Wild West of outsourced work”, warned Pascal Savoldelli, communist senator from Val-de-Marne, on September 29, presenting the report of the senatorial information mission called “Uberisation of society: what impact of digital platforms on professions and employment? “. The document opens several regulatory projects, while carefully avoiding that of wage labor, a status that the government does not want.

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Beyond the observation that these platforms tend to “Questioning our social and economic model”, the mission, chaired by Martine Berthet, Senator LR of Savoy, and having as rapporteur Mr. Savoldelli, formulates eighteen recommendations, in particular to improve working conditions and promote social dialogue. “Some of them bring progress for self-employed workers and stability for platforms, we say at Uber. We particularly retain those aimed at putting in place the conditions for a fruitful social dialogue. “ For the mission, the question of remuneration must enter this field, as Elisabeth Borne, the Minister of Labor, affirmed during her hearing on September 21.

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Above all, the mission is worried “The preponderant role played by algorithmic management”, which must be supervised and made more transparent. “It is not a neutral tool, insists Mr. Savoldelli. It is a tool that we consider to be political, with all the biases that this entails, particularly in terms of discrimination. “ False, challenges Deliveroo: “The algorithm makes it possible to affect races without bias or discriminatory character. It is not used for managerial purposes. ” And to add that these independents are free to organize their work as they wish and are not graded by any algorithm or in any other way ”.

The “subject of negotiations”

What criteria does the software use to award races? What is the weight of the rating made by the client? the impact of the number of refused races? The content of the algorithm must be the“Subject to negotiations”, advocates the mission. [Mais, pour l’heure], as we are not told everything about it, we will not be able to negotiate on this subject “, deplores Jérôme Pimot, head of the Collective of autonomous deliverers of ceilings-forms (CLAP), who, since 2018, asked “Several times, in vain, access to its operation”.

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“Pricing algorithms, incentive mechanisms and rating systems have direct effects on behavior” of these workers, the report reads. “Since we don’t know how it works, we tend to put the pressure on ourselves, we will drive as quickly as possible and, ultimately, take risks” to be sure to be in the right criteria for awarding races, adds Mr. Pimot.

“A relationship between two waters”

“It’s a relationship between two waters” that the mission made, believes Bastien Charbouillot, member of the CGT of the Ministry of Labor. On the one hand, the establishment of a social dialogue, the idea of ​​negotiating a minimum income per task, improving working conditions, etc. ; on the other, maintaining the status of autoentrepreneur. “There is a sort of global agreement on the emergence of a third status which does not say its name and the desire to supervise it. It is the construction of a right parallel to labor law which participates in the deconstruction of the latter and gives the impression of reducing to nothing our work in the fight against illegal work. “

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While Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, California and, more recently, the Netherlands have opted for the status of employee of platform workers – VTC drivers and delivery men -, with some nuances according to countries, and after the European Parliament resolution of 16 September which recommends “A presumption of wage employment” for these workers, “France is practically on the spot”, considers Olivier Jacquin, PS senator from Meurthe-et-Moselle.

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