EU lawmakers have agreed to tougher draft gig labour rules ahead of negotiations with EU countries to thrash out details, drawing dismay from a lobby group whose members include Uber Eats and Deliveroo.
The European Commission had proposed the draft rules a year ago to give Uber and Deliveroo drivers and delivery employees benefits.
These are seen by labour unions as a long overdue move but which the companies argue will lead to job losses.
The European Council estimates that there are 28.3 million gig workers in the 27-country EU this year, almost equal to the 28 million in the manufacturing sector.
It expects the number to near double to 43 million in 2025.
European Parliament lawmakers said gig workers could either be an employed worker with related labour rights or be genuinely self-employed and able to determine how to carry out the service.
It said that in the event of a dispute regarding an employee's status, the onus would be on the online platform company to prove that it does not employ the worker.
The lawmakers also want to prohibit algorithms from taking important decisions and want member states to ensure there is human oversight on all decisions significantly affecting working conditions.
"This is a first crucial step towards protecting all workers against the abuse of algorithms. Automated decision-making systems cannot be black boxes," lawmaker Elisabetta Gualmini, who is steering the topic in parliament, said.
Delivery Platforms Europe, which also counts Delivery Hero, Doordash, Wolt, Bolt and Glovo among its members, said the rules as amended by lawmakers would hit Europeans looking for flexible work amid a cost-of-living crisis.
"This report does not reflect what the vast majority of platform workers want and would interfere with national employment definitions meaning increased legal uncertainty," a spokesperson said.
Politicians and EU countries will iron out their differences next year before the draft rules can become law.