Five months. This is how long the negotiations with the digital interpreter platform, Voocali, took. The union, (HK Privat), signed the two agreements in front of a packed audience of interpreters.
Voocali and the President of HK Service Copenhagen, Rene Knudsen, signed an accession agreement so that future employees of Voocali get decent pay- and working conditions. The President of HK Privat, Simon Tøgern, signed an agreement that covers all those who are not covered by the collective agreement – i.e. the freelancers.
Many and long meetings at all hours preceded the agreement. Negotiations with the founders of Voocali.com who wanted a fair agreement for freelancers working on the platform but who do not see themselves as employers.
Interpreters offer their services on the platform
Voocali is a tech start-up that has built an interpreter platform that can handle both video remote interpreting and on-site interpretation. It eliminates the need for costly intermediaries, heavy documentation barriers, logistical and quality-related barriers in the interpretation industry.
The platform operates with three different types of profiles. There are freelancers who work with their civil registration number or with their central business register number, and customers, (for example the local authorities), who can use the platform for their own employees.
The agreement consists of four elements. A joint declaration on the basis for entering into the agreement, the agreement itself, an appendix on tariffs and a standard contract.
In addition to this, HK Privat had a say in the business conditions that cannot, from now on, be altered to the disadvantage of the freelancer without prior negotiations.
Worker or self-employed?
Both sides of the table found things they could agree to but we have also acknowledged that there remain unanswered questions regarding the distinction between the concept of worker and self-employed.
We have therefore concluded an agreement that can be terminated by both sides and can be adjusted on a continuous basis.
The tariffs in the agreement are based on the Ministry of Justice tariffs. We have agreed on an annual wage adjustment starting from 1 January 2020. We have agreed that the platform should, as soon as possible, allow for freelancers to raise their prices.
There is no fee for use of the platform for active freelance profiles. There is no period of commitment or clauses in relation to direct work for the customers. Objective criteria are required when deleting profiles. There is a two-sided rating and data portability.
Mushrooming platforms drive a”race to the bottom”
We are in a situation where no one really knows how the concepts of yesterday are to be interpreted into a digital platform economy context of today. And how do you interpret concepts like powers of direction and control in a world where both employees and freelancers work more and more autonomously because technology and the development of the labour market make it possible?
Does it even make sense to talk about entrepreneur’s profit when the platform is gatekeeper and do you still work for your own account and risk when you are guaranteed payment for work done?
There are many undecided questions and we cannot as a trade union movement wait for clarification while the platforms mushroom on the Danish labour market. Especially when they – as in this case – want an agreement that can help distance themselves from the platforms whose existence is based on a “race to the bottom”.