Macron Secretly Connived with Uber to Break the French Labor Code
On July 10, Le Monde and 40 other main papers which are part of the International Consortium of investigative journalists (ICIJ), published “The Uber Files”, with revelations from 124,000 private e-mails and documents leaked by former lobbyist and Uber official Mark MacGann, to the British daily The Guardian. They document how public officials were corrupted by Uber managers to change laws or introduce new ones to favor their work platform.
The case involving Emmanuel Macron, when he was François Hollande’s Economics Minister (2014 – 2016), has hit France like a bombshell. In Italy, the revelations have added wind to the sails of taxi drivers, who have been protesting since July 5 against government plans to hand over the sector to Uber.
Macron is accused of secretly assisting Uber despite the great hostility against the platform from the President, the Prime Minister, and the Economics and Labor Ministries. Worse, Macron actually coached the company on how to combat the Thévenoud law, adopted in October 2014, which forbade the UberPop application. That app basically deregulated the taxi driver profession by allowing anybody having an ordinary drivers license, without professional training, to get a job at Uber ! Launched three years earlier, this practice had led to near civil war between Uber and professional, regulated taxi drivers.
Le Monde reports that in a meeting with Uber officials on Oct. 1, 2014 and in 17 subsequent meetings, Emmanuel Macron made sure that the platform would win its bid to deregulate the market, putting pressure on the national anti-fraud agency (DGCCRF), which was in charge of investigating the Uber model, to cool their zeal. Later, pressure was applied on the Prefect of Marseilles, who had forbidden Uber from operating vehicles in the entire department. Three days after an intervention by Macron, the prohibition was replaced by mere controls…
In an interview with two journalists on July 12, who confronted Macron with those facts, he defiantly stated that he would do it again is he had to, claiming that opening the tax market had allowed the creation of many jobs for non-qualified workers in the poor suburbs. However, when he took office as President in 2017, he moved to regulate the digital platforms.
The reality however, in France as throughout Europe, is that lawmakers are still trying to deal with the human catastrophe created by Uber. The drivers are not hired by the Uber platform, but have a self-employed status. As a result, they are not entitled to paid holidays, paid retirement, health insurance, etc. In addition, it’s the platform and its algorithms that decide on the fares charged and the general work conditions . For the customer, when the Uber driver is honest (many cases have been reported of abuses and violence), the algorithm determines prices based on demand: the higher the demand, the higher the prices.
The tendency is thus to concentrate on high demand areas and abandon theo others. For the poor Uber driver, the average money earned in 2019 was EU24.81 gross/hr. After paying a 25% commission to the platform, service fees, VAT and social charges, he was left with 9.15 net. If he works 45 hours a week, his average net revenue will be no more than 1,617 euros.
Italian taxi drivers, who have now suspended their protests waiting for the outcome of the government crisis, are accusing the government of preparing a reform to introduce the Uber algorithm for the entire sector and demand the legislation be dropped. These allegations are well-founded. The Uber Files disclosed Uber funding to the Italian Bruno Leoni Institute, whose chairman and a fellow are part of the Prime minister’s advisory council. According to some accounts, Mario Draghi met Uber chief Dara Khosrowashahi a while ago, while refusing to receive taxi union delegations. Uritaxi national union leader Claudio Giudici has reminded that the taxi service is a constitutionally protected public service, with all relative obligations: taxis must guarantee a 24/7 presence, may not refuse a ride even if short, have fixed fares, etc. This service cannot be deregulated.