The parliamentary commission of inquiry devoted to Uber Files confirms the information revealed in July 2022 by the investigation unit of Radio France. She denounces a close proximity between Uber and Emmanuel Macron which continued after his election as President of the Republic.
It is not easy to conduct a commission of inquiry when the two people leading it belong to opposite parties and have divergent interests and points of view. This difficulty appears implicitly in the parliamentary report devoted to the Uber Files, a vast leak of documents revealed by the investigation unit of Radio France with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Guardian in July 2022. It showed to what extent Emmanuel Macron, when he headed the Ministry of the Economy, worked to promote the development of Uber in France.
>> Uber Files: revelations about the VTC giant’s lobbying practices
This commission, initiated by France Insoumise (LFI), was chaired by Renaissance deputy Benjamin Haddad, a close friend of the President of the Republic, while its rapporteur, Danielle Simonnet, is a member of LFI. Hence a dissonance that appears from the introduction to his report: “The rapporteur regrets that the commission of inquiry was unable to hear any of the former members of the Minister of the Economy at the time, we can read, since the office of the commission of inquiry systematically opposed it.“
Despite these discrepancies, 67 hearings were conducted, 120 people were heard, and the investigation report concludes: while he was illegally, “Uber has found allies at the highest level of the State… The intensity of the contacts between Uber, Emmanuel Macron and his cabinet testifies to an opaque, but privileged relationship, and reveals all the incapacity of our system to measure and prevent the influence of private interests on public decision-making“.
A confirmation of our information
Firstly, the report confirms and documents the information we revealed: in particular the existence of a “deal” passed between Emmanuel Macron and Uber. A tacit agreement and the development of a strategy aimed at obtaining the reduction of the number of hours of training required to become an Uber driver from 250 to seven, in exchange for the ban on ‘Uber Pop (a carpooling system allowing anyone to become a VTC driver).
A deal that Bernard Cazeneuve, then Minister of the Interior, and the Prime Minister at the time, Manuel Valls, would never have heard of, if we are to believe what they repeated before the commission. The report also documents the existence of a “Kill Switch”, a device activated by software dubbed “casper“allowing data to be erased from Uber’s computers in the event of a police raid. It also confirms the existence of an SMS sent to Emmanuel Macron by a representative of Uber while the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF) was searching the company premises.
A boost for the presidential
This proximity between Emmanuel Macron and Uber seems above all to stem from a common vision of what a modern society should be, and a shared conviction that taxi regulations should be reformed. Because the commission was not able to highlight a possible consideration for the “deal” negotiated with Uber. However, she notes that after that, Mark MacGann, while still working part-time as a lobbyist for Uber, gave money to candidate Macron and participated in a fundraiser on behalf of Uber. ‘Working.
>> Uber Files: how Emmanuel Macron got involved when the VTC giant arrived in France
He also offered to put him in touch with Jim Messina, Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, as well as other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. SMS exchanges still show that the candidate Macron invited Thibaud Simphal, the general manager of Uber France, to dinner to offer him funding for his campaign.
For the commission of inquiry, this strong support for Uber has contributed to creating a situation that is currently unfavorable to drivers. “Uber’s promises in terms of job creation have not been kept”, can we read. Although reliable studies are lacking on the subject, sociologist Sophie Bernard argued before the commission of inquiry that Uber only moved already precarious workers to another type of equally precarious job, but did not would not have lowered the unemployment figures. And this precariousness would now affect many platforms that are inspired by the same model.
The investigation report cites pell-mell: the Deliveroo home delivery service; Getir, which offers very fast delivery of fresh products, but also Stuart, a subsidiary of Geopost (La Poste’s international parcel delivery network), or StaffMe, which brings together young people and companies looking for occasional support. . The same is true for Mediflash, a platform that connects caregivers and nursing homes, and which has received significant funding from the French Public Investment Bank (BPI).
Support that continues after 2017
The commission also investigated the period following the Uber Files. Because Emmanuel Macron’s support for Uber would not have stopped in 2017. The report first gives a rather political interpretation of it, estimating that all the laws and regulations that were adopted after this date have certainly conferred new rights to Uber drivers, but in doing so, they would have prevented any debate on the possible transformation of these independent drivers into employees. According to the report, Uber “opted for a new collaborative strategy and decided to support the strengthening of workers’ rights… to avoid any requalification of these workers as employees“.
This question has therefore only been dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and each time, by the courts. On January 20, 2023, the Lyon industrial tribunal requalified 139 drivers as employees. But this decision, which is still subject to appeal, has no jurisprudential character. In other words, it cannot be extended to other drivers.
In government service after working for Uber
The report also relates facts that raise questions about the possible influence that Uber would continue to have in France. First, the commission established that the American company had still had 34 exchanges with the services of the President of the Republic between 2018 and 2022. While 83 exchanges were identified during the same period with the Ministry of Transport.
But we also learn that an American consulting firm, AT Kearney, proposed to Uber to create an orientation committee to work on an evolution of the social dialogue between the platform and its drivers. He then proposed that it be chaired by Bruno Mettling, a former HRD at Orange, expert in the consequences of digital transformation on the organization of work, who himself created a consulting firm called “Topics”. Nothing surprising so far.
But when in December 2021, Élisabeth Borne, then Minister of Labour, decided to set up a working group to work on the evolution of the regulatory framework for platforms in France, she entrusted her management to the same Bruno Mettling. And when an Employment Platforms Social Relations Authority (ARPE) will be created in April 2022, its presidency will once again be entrusted to… Bruno Mettling. The interested party sees no conflict of interest. Before the commission of inquiry, he justified the fact that he worked for Uber, by his expertise on the subject. And he defended himself:I am not here to defend the company Uber given the neutrality imposed on me by my position as President of ARPE.”