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This week saw the 'Rider's Law' in Spain pass its 100 day mark. Tomorrow [29 November] will see the first food delivery platform officially take its leave from Spain since the Law came into force. Deliveroo, the UK food delivery firm part-owned by Amazon, is shutting up shop in the southern European country, hiring their 3,800 riders to be compliant with the Law and then issuing a collective dismissal procedure to fire them all.

The Spanish right-wing opposition are furious, claiming that the Rider's Law is a job-cutter. But wait a minute, I thought their argument was these were not workers anyway, but independent contractors? In reality, Deliveroo's exit from Spain is as much about market competition as it is about the Rider's Law. The company exited the German market in 2019 when it realised it was not going to get a monopoly position, and in Spain it also faces rivals with much bigger market share in Uber Eats and Glovo. 

Look beyond Deliveroo and perhaps the biggest surprise is how little has changed so far with the new Law, fiercely fought over before its introduction. Glovo continues to hire 80% of its riders on a 'self-employed' basis. The Labour Inspectorate appears to be gathering evidence to initiate sanctions on the company, but as yet nothing has happened in that respect. Uber Eats is now hiring via sub-contractors, which the union CCOO is taking them to court over for what they claim is an illegal transfer of workers. Just Eat also hires through sub-contractors, but claims to be planning to move them in-house and has been negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with CCOO and UGT for a long time now without a deal yet being done.

As for the other dimension of the Rider's Law, that worker's representatives would get access to platform algorithms to be able to represent workers with the information they need, there has so far been no concrete developments. UPF professor of economics and business, Juan José Ganuza, has told 'El Periodico de España' that he considers that part of the law "inapplicable".

"The concept is not well defined and I see it more as a declaration of intent than as a real barrier for companies," Ganuza explained. 

Whether the professor is right or not we cannot say but it is worrying to say the least that the most ambitious part of the Rider's Law may be a dud. With just 10 days until the EU Commission announces its legislative proposal on regulating platform work, it's a timely reminder to pay attention to the detail. 

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator


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Gig Economy news round-up

  • SPANISH UNION LAUNCHES 'CONTENT CREATOR NETWORK': The UGT union in Spain has launched a "content creators network" to begin organising youtubers, instagramers and other content creators using social media to disseminate their work. Initially, the network is seeking to promote debate and to "analyse what needs to exist", including looking at what sort of legal protections content creators need. The union said that content creators "are not represented, nor can they defend themselves, before the different unilateral decisions of the social networks". The first meeting of the network will take place on December 10 and 11 at the Julián Besteiro School of UGT in Madrid. Click here to read more
  • ELECTION POSTPONES PLANS TO GIVE GIG WORKERS EMPLOYEE STATUS IN PORTUGAL: The Portuguese government was all set to follow Spain in providing employment status for platform workers, but the plan has now been delayed due to the announcement of a snap general election on 30 January 2022, due to the parliament's rejection of the government's budget for next year. The Government had announced its legislative plans and had a majority to deliver them, but the Bill had not begun proceeding through parliament before the election was announced.
  • UBER TO STOP OPERATING IN BRUSSELS AFTER COURT VERDICT: US ridehail giant Uber has announced that it has pulled almost entirely out of the Belgian capital, leaving it's 2,000 drivers in the city unable to work through the app from Friday [26 November] evening, with just 5% of the workforce being retained temporarily. The decision followed a Brussels Court of Appeal verdict which found that the cease and decision order on UberPop, which sought to connect non-professional drivers to customers, in 2015 should be widened to apply to all Uber's services. A local taxi company, Taxis Verts, said the verdict proved they were right: "you need a taxi license to do this kind of transport". The Brussels regional government said the verdict was Uber's responsibility, since the company "allowed this sector to develop with the legal risk of seeing this service banned". Read more here.  
  • SHEFFIELD STUART DELIVERY RIDERS SET TO STRIKE: Following a U-turn by Stuart Delivery, Sheffield riders, who are members of the IWGB union, are set to strike, with a protest first taking place on 28 November outside the town hall. The company had announced that it was postponing a new payment structure following protests by riders in the English city, but is now set to push ahead with the change. The new structure will see average pay per delivery fall from £4.50 to £3.40 from 6 December, and the IWGB has announced they will respond with a strike beginning the same day. Read more here.
  • UBER DRIVERS DEMAND FRENCH AUTHORITY DEFEND THEIR GDPR RIGHTS: Uber drivers in Paris mobilised in front of the National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties (CNIL) on Tuesday [23 November] to demand that the independent government authority protects their GDPR rights, which they say are being infringed by the US ridehail giant. Ben Ali Brahim, leader of the INV union and organiser of the mobilisation, said that drivers were dealing with unfair terminations and surveillance from a "opaque algorithmic management" that was in breach of article 22 of EU GDPR law, which states that: "The data subject shall have the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling, which produces legal effects concerning him or her or significantly affects him or her in a similar way". Uber responded by claiming it is in compliance with article 22 as decisions, such as to terminate an account of an Uber driver, "are taken after a manual review by our team of specialists". Read more here
  • UBER ACCUSED OF TRYING TO UNDERMINE UK SUPREME COURT RULING: Nine months following the UK Supreme Court's verdict, which found that Uber drivers are workers from when they log-in to when they log-out, the US ridehail giant has been accused of trying to undermine the ruling by pursuing one of the same issues in the UK High court again. Uber has challenged the part of the ruling which found that the driver enters into a contract with the passenger when accepting a booking, claiming that this isn't the case and citing London transport's regulatory guidance. ADCU union co-founder Yaseen Aslam, who pursued the case against Uber to the Supreme Court, said: “I thought the Supreme Court ruling was the end of the matter but just months later we are being forced back to court to defend this landmark ruling from Uber’s army of slick corporate lawyers who are determined to strip us of our rights". A verdict is expected at a later date. Click here to read more.

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

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59% of UK riders have no financial support when ill or injured, new study finds

In-depth study by Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) engaged 76 riders in surveys, interviews and focus groups.

From around the web

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Social relations under surveillance capitalism: Is solidarity still possible?

Bama Athreya asks what surveillance capitalism means for the world of work on 'BotPopuli'.

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The European Trade Union Institute have published a new report examining unpaid waiting time in the gig economy.

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Mobile workers, contingent labour: Migration, the gig economy and the multiplication of labour

Moritz Altenried writes in 'Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space' about migrants and the gig economy.

What's coming up?

- Protest on 28 November in support of Sheffield Stuart Delivery riders fighting against an attempt to impose a pay cut, outside Sheffield town hall from 12 noon. 

- 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].

Get Involved

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.

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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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