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Greek strike reveals riders' can wield real power

We have seen some impressive actions by gig workers over the past year, but perhaps nothing quite as impressive as the E-Food riders strike and #Cancel_EFood campaign in Greece over the past 10 days. Read our full report here.

The dispute began with E-Food, the largest food delivery platform in Greece and owned by German multi-national Delivery Hero, sending a text to their riders to say: “we would like to suggest and appreciate that it would be better to work as a freelancer, otherwise there is no possibility of renewing the existing contract”. The text went viral on social media and #Cancel_EFood took off, with thousands of customers de-activating the app and the company's Google rating dropping from 4.5 to 1 star. The company responded by stating the text was "incorrect wording", and that the riders would have the choice between 'self-employed' and continuing on 3-month fixed contracts.

The response from the public gave the riders confidence to push harder, with unions announcing a 4-hour stoppage on Wednesday and a 24-hour strike on Friday. The Wednesday strike saw between 1000-1500 E-Food riders and drivers take to the streets of Athens (as well as at least five other Greek cities), in what local media reported as "the largest ever [mobilisation] in the history of the industry". 

By Thursday, E-Food management had crumbled. Not only was the self-employed option completely off the table, the riders would now have unlimited contracts. Unions celebrated a "huge victory", but decided to continue with the Friday strike nonetheless, to "ensure that what the company has announced will be put into practise". The riders' victory was not only painful for E-Food, but it also hurt the centre-right Greek Government, which had just weeks before passed a new labour law making it easier for platforms to justify hiring workers as "partners" rather than employees with full labour rights.

This year alone, we have seen Barcelona taxistas strike to stop Uber entering the city, a historic national riders strike in Italy, a Deliveroo strike in the UK following the IPO disaster, a Bolt drivers strike in the UK, the incredible wild cat strikes of Gorillas riders in Berlin, the spontaneous Glovo protests and blockades in Barcelona, followed by the Glovo 'dark supermarket' riders strike. As Europe comes out of the pandemic, platform workers in the ride-hail and food delivery sectors are showing they have real power.

And there's more to come: on Tuesday [28 September], the Elite Taxi drivers will once again take over the streets of Barcelona against Uberisation, while on the same day Uber drivers in France, Britain and other countries will strike for better terms & conditions. The Gig Economy Project will be reporting live from Barcelona on Tuesday, keep an eye on our twitter (@project_gig) for updates.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • DUTCH COURT FINDS HELPLING IS AN EMPLOYER: The FNV union in Netherlands won its second court victory in a week, after the Amsterdam Court of Appeal found that the cleaners' platform Helpling is not a digital bulletin board for cleaners in private households, and is in fact an employment agency. Helpling now has to comply with the collective labour agreement for temporary workers, which entitles them to a pension, holiday pay and other labour rights. Read more here
  • 9 OUT OF 10 GIG WORKERS SUFFER ASSAULT OR ABUSE: A survey by the UK's IWGB union has found that nine out of every ten gig workers suffer assault or abuse. The worst affected are black and ethnic minority workers, 60 per cent of whom say they suffer verbal or physical abuse as much as once a month. IWGB is calling on platform companies to take responsibility for their workers' safety. Read more here.
  • DELIVEROO IN PARIS CRIMINAL COURT FOR "HIDDEN WORK": Three of Deliveroo's former senior staff will appear in front of the Paris Criminal Court charged with "hidden work". The company is accused of having "concealed a large number of jobs", and the court case will take place in early March 2022. The investigation has been ongoing since 2018, with the prosecutors believing that "thousands of workers" were hired via an independent contractor basis, when the Labour Inspectorate had already confirmed in 2017 that they had a relationship to Deliveroo of permanent legal subordination, and thus should be treated as employees. Deliveroo said it would defend the independent contractor model in court. Read more here.
  • GORILLAS RAISE $950 MILLION: Berlin based rapid grocery delivery platform Gorillas has raised an additional $950 million from investors, taking the company's valuation to over $3 billion. The injection of finance capital comes after the company has been hit by multiple problems, not least a rebellion by its riders in Berlin which has brought national media attention onto the company's management practices. German multi-national Delivery Hero, which operates in various countries under different titles, is said to be leading the funding round as investors pour cash into app-based food and grocery delivery. 
  • UBER SAYS IT WILL GO GREEN IN EUROPE: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spoke at a 'CEO roundtable' event on Tuesday [21 September] about green mobility in Europe, signing a manifesto along with other tech CEOs for zero-emission targets for mobility to be brought forward from 2050 to 2035 in Europe, stating Uber can contribute to "universal, multi-modal public transport". The meeting also heard from the deputy mayor of Paris, David Belliard, who is responsible for transport and mobility, and expressed his opposition to the "uberisation" of the city, saying "we cannot have this anymore". Belliard said walking, cycling, buses and trains were the main ways Paris would be going green, not private ride-hail.
  • GLOVO COURT DEFEATS REACHES 50 CASES: Spanish food delivery platform Glovo has lost another court case over employment status in Spain, with the total number of court defeats now reaching the 50 mark. A Valencian court condemned the firm for hiring the rider fraudulently on a self-employed basis and de-activating his app for an alleged delay to a food delivery. The case was taken forward by the Intersindicale Valenciana union, and Glovo will now have to re-instate the rider or pay him compensation. Read more here.
  • IWGB SEEKS CLARITY ON OCADO IN-HOUSING PLANS: IWGB's President Alex Marshall has written to e-retailer Ocado seeking clarity on whether the company is going to live up to its promises of in-housing its 'Ocado Zoom' delivery workers. The company has described a shift from sub-contractor Ryde to employment agency J&T as "in-housing", even though it currently means they are still not employed by the company. The Ocado Zoom riders were earning below poverty pay from Ryde, where they were hired on an independent contractor basis. The riders voted for industrial action two weeks ago. Read more here.

Have we missed important news on the gig economy in Europe this week? E-mail Ben at [email protected] to help us improve our news round-up.

On GEP this week

From around the web

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Rest of World, a new media outlet which provides information on tech beyond Silicon Valley, has produced a fascinating series of analyses and reports on the gig economy internationally.

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LabourNet.TV have filmed a recent joint protest by riders in Gorillas, Wolt and Lieferando for permanent contracts.

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The Gig Workers Collective explain the motivation and demands behind the #DeleteInstacart campaign in the US.

What's coming up?

- Elite Taxi Barcelona, the taxi union, has announced a mobilisation on 28th September against attempts to 'Uberise' the city. 9am in the Plaza España. Details here

- The ADCU union will hold a national Uber strike in the UK on 28th September. Details here. Information on the international strike taking place the same day here

- The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) will host a conference on 28th September on 'making platform companies respect the rules'. Click here for the full programme and here to register.

- An EU-US Future of Digital Summit will take place on 30th September, 5.30pm-9.00pm CET. European Parliament groups S&D, Renew Europe, Greens/EFA and the Left have joined forces with Accountable Tech, EDRi and SumOfUs to organise the event. For details and to register click here

- The United Private Hire & Drivers Union, a branch of the IWGB union, has announced another Uber strike in the UK for 6th of October. Details here.

- The European Trade Union Institute will hold a two-day conference online and face-to-face on 'labour rights & the digital transition'. The event will be held in Brussels on 28th and 29th of October. See the programme here

- The European Commission will announce its legislative proposal for improving the conditions of platform workers on 8th of December. 

Know of more events or actions that we should be highlighting? Let us know at [email protected].

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Get in touch

The Gig Economy Project is a media network for gig workers and we welcome contributions from workers, writers, academics, activists - anyone who wants to stand up for gig workers' rights. 

If you would like to write for the site, discuss arranging an interview with GEP, or simply have information about developments in the gig economy in Europe you think we should be aware of, get in touch. 

Contact project co-ordinator Ben Wray at [email protected] or send a direct message to the Twitter @project_gig.

And if you like the Gig Economy Project weekly newsletter, why not send the link to subscribe to a friend or colleague?

The Gig Economy Project is a Brave New Europe production. If you want to help GEP expand our work, visit BraveNewEurope.com to make a donation.

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