The EU, competition and workers’ rights

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The paper delves into the ways in which EU competition law affects the right of workers to combine with each other and act, collectively, in the furtherance of their rights and interests at work, in particular by means of collective agreements concluded with one or more employers. It begins by opposing the limited ‘labour exception’ contained in the recent competition caselaw and contrasts that with a more traditional ‘labour law’ approach, that would typically see collective bargaining as a fundamental, and universal, labour rights to be enjoyed by all workers, or in the alternative will have to integrate the asymmetry of bargaining power between labour and digital monopsonies. We put forward a more nuanced and balanced approach, by reference to the concept of ‘predominantly personal work’, that could act as the new watershed concept around which labour rights and competition law could define their respective fields of operation and which may already inspire the recent Commission’s proposals enabling self-employed without employees (“solo self-employed”) to access the right to bargain collectively on a number of issues with digital platforms.

Disclaimer: Research in this area has been supported by the Odysseus grant “Employment rights and labour protection in the on-demand economy” granted by the FWO Research Foundation – Flanders