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Uber, delivery apps propose offering Mexico drivers social security

FILE PHOTO: The Uber logo is seen on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Tech giant Uber and delivery apps DiDi and Rappi have proposed offering social security benefits to workers in Mexico for the first time ahead of a new government bill set to regulate the gig economy.

The companies said in a statement on Wednesday, co-signed by worker-rights activist groups, they were open to covering drivers and couriers who work an average of more than 40 hours a week on one or more platforms.

They stopped short of agreeing to classify drivers as employees, however, and few details were given on how payments towards social security costs would be divided.

Mexican Labor Minister Luisa Alcalde has said officials are working on a bill that would bring gig workers into the "formal economy," although the timeline is still unclear.

It is also unclear if the bill will seek to make drivers employees, or propose other reforms in line with the apps' statement.

Ridesharing and delivery apps worldwide have pushed back against calls to classify workers as employees rather than independent contractors, saying the change would hinder their business models and deny drivers flexibility.

The statement from Uber, Chinese mobility firm DiDi Global Inc and Latin American delivery app Rappi also suggested establishing mechanisms to ensure fair pay in line with time worked, but did not outline specifics.

"It's time to take the next step and find a point of consensus ... and start improving conditions," Tonatiuh Anzures, Didi's government affairs director in Mexico, said in an interview.

Any changes will depend on further talks and government backing, Anzures added.

Nicolas Sanchez, Uber's head of public policy in Mexico, said that he hoped that extra costs would be low but Uber was "open to them" if the industry, which encompasses some 500,000 people, was allowed to retain flexibility.

The Labor Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reaching broad consensus may be tough. A few dozen workers honked on motorcycles outside the Mexico City building where the companies were slated to hold news briefings Wednesday, in what Sergio Guerrero, head of the National Union of Application Workers, called a protest against the companies' stance.

"To have labor rights, you have to be recognized as an employee," he said.

(Reporting by Isabel Woodford, Editing by Daina Beth Solomon, Cynthia Osterman and Anna Driver)