‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 
Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
Image description

The Gig Economy Project was in Brussels this week for two important conferences on the future of the gig economy.

On Wednesday, The Left in the EU Parliament's 'Alternatives to Uberisation' forum was a raucous affair, full of defiance and determination. A remarkable 57 organisations from 18 countries were represented, with the Latin American contingent of riders and drivers a particularly energised bunch. The workers were able to put their views across directly to Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner of jobs & social rights, in the evening, and there was also time for a bit of direct action, as Uber drivers from France slowed traffic around the EU Commission building while protestors held banners reading "don't make Uber make the law!"

There was a large degree of consensus at the forum itself; platform workers are employees and should have full labour rights, algorithms need to be regulated for the good of workers and the public as a whole, and the platform workers' movement must keep building its international strength and interconnectedness. Read our full report here.

On Thursday and Friday, the European Trade Union Institute's 'digital transition and labour rights' conference was less emotionally charged, but just as intriguing. Labour law professors, lawyers and trade union leaders examined the key legal and political questions vis-a-vis digital labour rights. Two things are clear: first, European workers do not currently have anything close to a comprehensive set of digital rights and protections, a problem that will only become more apparent as the platform model spreads into more industry sectors. Second, it's naive to think that employee classification would be some sort of panacea that solves all problems - there are multiple legal and political fronts of critical importance. Read our report from the ETUI conference here

Those events were only the ones that GEP was able to cover this week. Two other fascinating conferences, one on digital worker inquiries at the University of Edinburgh, and a platform work symposium led by the DigiLabour research lab at Unisinos University in Brazil, were also held and by all accounts were a big success. There's clearly a huge international interest in the technological changes shaping work and how the labour movement can be re-built in that context, the question is whether the collective knowledge and connections that are accumulating internationally can translate into building collective workers power. 

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

Image description

Gig Economy news round-up

  • PORTUGAL MOVES TOWARDS EMPLOYMENT STATUS: Portugal looks set to become the second country in Europe to legislate for gig workers to become employees. Reuters reports that a Bill was approved by the government last week and is awaiting "the final stamp of approval from parliament". The scope of the change is not totally clear, but Labour Minister Ana Mendes Godinho has suggested that it will include all workers on digital platforms, which will also have "the obligation to transparently inform the Work Conditions Authority, workers and their representatives, about the criteria of algorithms and artificial intelligence mechanisms used." Portugal had been using a system of intermediaries between platforms and workers, but it has been breaking down, with intermediaries joining workers in protesting against unilateral changes to the algorithm which have lowered pay. Read more here.
  • POLL FINDS MAJORITY BACK PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF GIG PLATFORMS IN THE UK: A poll for the Fair Work Foundation conducted by pollster Survation has found the UK public have a highly critical view of the way gig economy platforms are run. 53% think public ownership of gig platforms which fail to offer fair pay and conditions is a good idea, with just 22% believing platforms pay gig workers a fair wage. 64% support changes to employment law aimed at reducing the number of workers who are inaccurately defined as self-employed. 57% think platforms should be required to negotiate with unions, while 60% think gig workers should have representation on the company board. Read more here.
  • GLOVO ANNOUNCE 'COURIERS PLEDGE': Spanish food delivery platform Glovo has announced a new 'couriers pledge', which will cover earnings, health & safety and career development support for riders. Glovo has so far largely refused to comply with the Spanish Government's "Riders Law", which sought to establish a legal presumption of employment in the food delivery platform sector to improve working conditions, and co-founder Sacha Michaud has said they are "not prioritising" the pledge in their home country because the Riders Law has made it "complex" to do so. Glovo has engaged the University of Oxford's Fair Work Foundation in their pledge, but Fair Work insisted that this does not amount to an endorsement, calling it a "first step toward improving conditions". Michaud says the pledge will be rolled out gradually over the course of 24 months. Read more here.
  • STUART DELIVERY RIDERS ORGANISE TO STOP PAY-CUT: Food delivery couriers in the IWGB union in Sheffield have successfully organised to block a pay cut by Stuart Delivery. The workers received notice of a new pay structure earlier this month which would have seen their take-home income fall, and responded by threatening strike action. Stuart Delivery replied by announcing they are "postponing the launch of the new pay structure until further notice". Watch a video here.
  • GORILLAS WORKERS COLLECTIVE IN NEW ORGANISING EFFORT: The Gorillas Workers Collective has responded to the mass firing of workers for participating in wild cat strikes by calling for supporters to help build a campaign which can put pressure on both the company and the courts. In the statement calling a meeting to discuss the launch of the campaign, GWC describe Germany's strike laws as "post-fascist", as they forbid wildcat and political strikes. They also state that there attempts to establish a Works' Council have been disrupted by the company. Gorillas Workers face a series of court actions starting 1 November, and the campaign will seek to "take action to create a public discourse around the topics to put more pressure on the labor court". Read more here.
  • OCADO ZOOM RIDERS CONTINUE TO PRESS COMPANY: Ocado Zoom riders for the Marks & Spencer's owned retailer have written to the company to express their discontent over their continued refusal to engage with their union, the IWGB, and to live up to the company's own commitments. The letter states that they were "told that we would be brought in-house by Ocado but to date many of us are still awaiting this invitation and some of us have even been told there is no job at all".

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

Image description

Podcast: The Riders Law with Ben Wray

Gig Economy Project co-ordinator Ben Wray speaks on the Sobremesa Podcast about the Spanish Government's new 'Riders Law'.

Image description

The first chapter introducing a new book on labour and the platform economy edited by Jan Drahokoupil and Kurt Vandaele, published by Edward Elgar Publishing.

Image description

Objective: Open the black box of the algorithm

Another look at the Alternatives to Uberisation conference in Brussels this week in Spanish website La Marea (in Spanish).

What's coming up?

- 'Forging the co-operative digital economy', the annual conference of the Platform Cooperative Consortium, 15-18 November online. Register 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].

Image description

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.

Facebook icon
Twitter icon
Instagram icon
If you want to unsubscribe, click here.