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18 December 2019
From 1 January 2020, bike couriers' employment relationships will be governed by a newly enacted collective bargaining agreement. The agreement was concluded between the Chamber of Commerce and the Austrian Union of Service Workers as the respective representative bodies for all employers and employees of this specific service sector. It applies to each employment relationship affected, regardless of workers' affiliation with a union.
Under the Austrian system of collective bargaining, the personal scope of collective bargaining agreements is determined via the mandatory membership of employers with the respective branch of the Chamber of Commerce; when obtaining a business licence, employers, by operation of law, become members of the Chamber of Commerce. If the competent branch of the chamber concludes a collective bargaining agreement for a specific business sector with their counterpart (the labour union) all employers pertaining to this branch must comply with the terms of the respective collective bargaining agreement and afford their employees the rights and benefits granted thereunder.
The new collective bargaining agreement does not touch on the issue of whether bike couriers should be qualified as workers or contractors, but the fact that it has been concluded shows that employer organisations and unions agree that bike couriers, in many cases, should be classified as employees rather than self-employed contractors. The courts tend to narrowly define the scope of self-employment and in most cases it is accurate to conclude that bike couriers are controlled, managed and disciplined by their engagers. The courts, for instance, held more than a decade ago that using a private bike for courier services does not amount to using a person's own operating resources. Further, the courts are not convinced that a substitution clause in a contract that is never put to practice would warrant a classification of a worker as self-employed.
Therefore, a vast number of bike couriers in Austria will be covered under the terms of this new collective bargaining agreement.
The status of (white-collar) employees or (blue-collar) workers already brings with it an array of statutory rights that govern issues such as:
In addition, the following rights and benefits have been introduced:
Ostensibly, Austria is the first country to introduce a collective bargaining agreement for one of the better-known sectors of the gig economy. Bike couriers in Austria now enjoy similar rights and benefits as employees in other sectors.
While this is good news for bike couriers, it remains to be seen whether customers will have to pay the bill because of increased prices for courier services.
For further information on this topic please contact Jakob Widner at Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwälte GmbH by telephone (+431 401 17 0) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Graf & Pitkowitz website can be accessed at www.gpp.at.
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