In a surprise move, a new European Commission proposal to regulate Uber drivers and other ‘gig economy’ workers will instead reclassify EU fonctionnaires as ‘independent contractors’ and make them available to anyone with a smartphone and an app called EUBER.
Under the proposal, Commission officials would be required to work on a for-hire basis – with an algorithm assigning fonctionnaires to tasks based on location, availability, user ratings and artificial intelligence.
“When I need a non-paper or a request-for-proposal, I shouldn’t have to wait months or years for a roadmap, a project plan, a public consultation, yada yada yada,” said Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager in a press conference announcing the proposal. “Now, there’s an app for that. I can open up EUBER and have a fonctionnaire sent round in minutes. Unless it’s raining, then it might take a bit longer and cost twice as much.”
Compared to normal Commission procedures, the EUBER app is relatively simple. A user who needs some work done selects from among three levels of service: EUBERtemp, which requests a stagiaire or temporary official; EUBERcrat, which summons a fonctionnaire of head-of-unit level or higher; and EUBERex, which includes a former official now working as a lobbyist.
All three levels of service include the option to have a takeout meal delivered from Exki.
The EUBER app also lets users tip officials after work is done, though its developers say this has never happened. Officials will be rated on their work by users on a five-star scale, with one star meaning “total crap” and five stars meaning “barely acceptable.”
Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, who unveiled the proposal alongside Vestager, was asked whether the EU was abandoning long-treasured workers’ rights principles by turning its own officials into for-hire contractors.
“That’s a good question,” Dombrovskis said, as his phone beeped. “Sorry… I’ve got to go across town to introduce a panel discussion.”