Abstract: In December 2021, the European Commission proposed a directive creating five criteria for the presumed classification of platform economy workers as salaried employees. The issue is timely, of course, as the digital organisation of work continues to grow rapidly. Our article contrasts the merits and limitations of this initiative to the Canadian experience concerning so-called independent contractors in the platform economy. In fact, Canadian labour law has long recognised a third status of workers—dependent contractors. It permits collective bargaining, while platform workers remain autonomous, notably for tax purposes. Immediately, the striking similarities between the European Union’s five criteria and judicial tests applied by Canadian labour tribunals seem to indicate that both entities are moving in the same direction. However, the federal structure of labour law in Canada and the single market’s social dimension also pose important challenges regarding the uniform implementation of new protections. Based on recent fieldwork in Toronto, and as the European Union directive moves into the approval and implementation stages, our article addresses the research question of how basic labour rights in the platform economy progress similarly (or differently), and which actors are driving the change on each side of the Atlantic. We argue that this policy field provides labour market actors with opportunities for “institutional experimentation” navigating the openings and limitations of federalism.
Keywords: Canada; digital labour platforms; European Union; labour law; labour policy; trade unions