Two years after its initiative to ease collective bargaining for self-employed workers, the European Commission published new guidelines to allow collective bargaining for solo self-employed people under EU competition rules.

The Commission presented new guidelines on applying EU competition law to collective agreements regarding the working conditions of solo self-employed people, defined as self-employed people who do not employ any workers.

EU competition law, in most cases, forbids agreements between undertakings that restrict competition, such as price-fixing agreements among companies.

As self-employed workers have, until now, been considered undertakings like any other company, this rule also applied to them, which made it hard for them to organise as workers without being considered a cartel under EU law.

Worse working conditions and higher risk of poverty

Under these new guidelines, presented on Thursday (29 September), the Commission will no longer apply competition law to solo self-employed people that are in a situation comparable to workers.

“Solo self-employed people in the digital economy and beyond may not be able to individually negotiate good working terms and therefore may face difficult working conditions,” the EU Commission’s Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Contracting workers as self-employed people instead of properly employed people is a strategy of some companies to evade paying social contributions and to get around other labour regulations. Figures from the European statistical office Eurostat (see graph below) show that self-employed workers are at a much higher risk of poverty and social exclusion than properly employed people.

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