Spanish unions to get access to app algorithms to monitor workers' rights

MADRID, March 11 (Reuters) - Spanish unions will be given access to the algorithms companies such as Uber use to manage their workforce in the gig economy, to monitor conditions and stop workers being underpaid in low-demand hours, Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz said on Thursday.

Such labour rights monitoring is part of Spain’s forthcoming legislation to bolster protections for service sector workers, typically hired on freelance basis, that will require employers to put them on staff contracts.

The bill still has needs a green light from the cabinet, after which companies will have 90 days to implement it.

“It will make it possible to avoid, as is currently the case, algorithmic punishments for workers who work in certain time slots, penalties for performance that can be biased, or even the simple fact of promoting or going on strike,” Diaz told reporters.

Spain’s move on the gig economy, agreed with Spanish unions and business associations, comes as the European Union is set to propose an EU-wide regulatory framework by year-end.

“We are the first EU country to legislate on this issue and Europe is looking this way,” Diaz added.

The Supreme Court ruled in September that people working for Barcelona-based food delivery app Glovo were employees, not freelancers, a decision that could enable such workers to demand formal labour contracts and benefits.

Companies in the sector, including international platforms Deliveroo and Uber Eats, have been preparing for weeks for the new regulation by looking for alternatives such as outsourcing or using temporary employment agencies, sources told Reuters.

Just Eat, a unit of Dutch-based Takeaway, has started to recruit its own workers in Spain.

Experts and trade unions warn that without real willingness on the part of companies to hire couriers, court battles around such alternative employment schemes will likely continue. (Reporting by Emma Pinedo; additional reporting Belén Carreño; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Jan Harvey)