A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the "invisible riders" in Barcelona, usually undocumented workers doubly-exploited by the app account holder and the platform itself. This week a first-hand account in 'El Confidencial' from a Cuban undocumented rider in Madrid has got our attention.
Alfredo Herrera arrived from Cuba just a few months ago. At first he got a job in construction before quickly moving into food delivery, which a "good part of the newly arrived emigrants start or end-up". A Venezuelan offered to let him use her Uber Eats account, which was operated through the sub-contractor 'Closer'. She said Alfredo could receive all his pay because she only wanted to keep the account 'active'. The only checks to prevent sub-renting of the app is a daily photo, which Alfredo and the Venezuelan easily found a way around. Alfredo worked for a month for UberEats until the Venezuelan suddenly closed the account just before he was due to be paid and refused to give him the money he had earned, claiming she had left for Venezuela.
Next, Alfredo worked for Glovo, with a rented account from a Peruvian, who took 25% of the earnings, including tips. Alfredo needed to work 10 hours a day to earn €50, which works out at €2.50 an hour. To escape Glovo, Alfredo tried to get back into Uber Eats via one of its other sub-contractors, 'Just in Time'. He met Fernando who claimed to be on the board of directors of Just in Time, and offered to rent him the account of a woman who lived with him and had two children. Fernando and the woman would take a €400 cut of his monthly salary of €1,100, which was based on completing 416 orders, which he calculated as taking eight hours a day for 26 days (one day off a week). Just in Time riders also only get 60% of all the tips they make. Alfredo asked how he could be sure he would definitely receive his €710 at the end of the month? Fernando replied that he was a "responsible boss"...
A final plan to work for Just Eat through the account of a Colombian fell through because several account holders had been fired for sub-renting. Alfredo ended up back at Glovo, using the account of another Venezuelan who takes a 21% cut.
What does Alfredo's story tell us? That the Rider's Law has so far not solved the problem of the extreme exploitation of undocumented riders. Even when riders' are formally employees, they are hired via sub-contracting firms which appear to pay little close attention to who is actually doing the work, and are sometimes even the chief organiser's of extreme exploitation, as in the case of Fernando. Meanwhile, all of this extremely murky business does not disrupt the profit-making of the platforms one iota.
Riders may have labour rights in the eyes of the law in Spain, but Alfredo's story shows it's a long way from being realised in practise.
Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator
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Gig Economy news round-up
- WOLT COURIERS ARE EMPLOYEES, FINNISH STATE AGENCY FINDS: Couriers for Wolt, the Finnish food delivery platform, are employees, according to a ruling by the occupational health and safety authority of the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland (Avi). Wolt has 14 days to comply with the ruling, which includes keeping working time records on all couriers in accordance with Finnish labour law, and could face sanction if it does not. The company said it would appeal Avi's decision to the Administrative Court, and that if it did have to comply with the ruling "5,000 couriers and thousands of people would be out of work". Read more here.
- UNDOCUMENTED RIDERS JOIN PARIS STRIKE: Hundreds of undocumented workers in Paris took strike action on Monday to demand legalisation of their employment status, including food delivery couriers at Stuart Delivery. The strike was organised by the CGT union and some of the companies employing undocumented workers have agreed to provide documents to support work permit requests, but Stuart Delivery was not one of those. CGT said work at the delivery company was at "a standstill" because of the strike. Read more here.
- SHEFFIELD COURIERS ANNOUNCE STRIKE PLANS: Fresh from pushing back an attempt to cut pay, Stuart Delivery couriers in Sheffield are now going on the offensive, issuing a set of demands for improved pay, including paying waiting times after the first 10 minutes. The IWGB-union organised couriers have said they will go on strike if they do no receive a positive response to their demands by 12 November. Just last week, Stuart Delivery postponed plans to implement a new pay structure in Sheffield which would have seen pay fall for couriers, but the plan was postponed after resistance from the couriers. Read more here.
- OCADO ZOOM WORKERS CLAIM CAR ACCIDENT DUE TO DRIVERS BEING "PUSHED TO THE LIMIT": Retailer Ocado has been accused of putting lives at risk after an 'Ocado Zoom' driver was involved in a serious accident. The workers, who are members of the IWGB union, say that the number of drivers has been cut and most of the present drivers are new, as part of an effort to union-bust after workers argued they should be brought in-house with improved conditions and pay. The accident saw a major collision between a Ocado Zoom delivery car, apparently driven by a new driver, and a bus. "With a reduced workforce that is majority new drivers that are being pushed to the limit and struggling to meet demand, Ocado are responsible for dangerous accidents like this", Ocado Zoom workers tweeted. IWGB activists also took their message to Marks & Spencer's, which owns 50% of Ocado, occupying their London HQ on Friday. Read more here.
- BASQUE UBER DRIVERS TO STRIKE FOR A WEEK: Drivers for Uber in the Bizkaia region of the Basque Country, in the north of Spain, have announced a week's strike action over unpaid wages since August, unfair dismissals from the app and the stealing of tips from the workers. The UGT union in the Basque Country is organising the strike, and said they have continually denounced Uber to the Labour Inspectorate for breaches of labour rights and presented numerous demands to the social court of Bilbao. (Read more here.)
- FRENCH UBER DRIVERS TO PROTEST FOR DATA RIGHTS: The INV union of private hire drivers in France has announced a protest outside the offices of the French Government's 'National Commission of Computing and Liberties' (CNIL), which the union says has done nothing about intrusive surveillance by Uber and other private hire platforms. The union is demanding drivers get access to the data which the platforms' keep on them. The protest will take place on 23 November at 1pm.
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.