Welcome to the first Gig Economy Project weekly newsletter!
This week we are highlighting the unprecedented strike of 'dark supermarket' Glovo riders in Barcelona. Not only is it the first official strike in the app-based food delivery sector in Spain, they are going on strike for 9 days, have almost 100% participation of the 320 strong workforce, have shutdown all of Glovo's food processing sites in the city, and have experienced incredible solidarity from other 'autonomous' (i.e. fake self-employed) Glovo riders in the city.
To break the strike, Glovo tried to mobilise its fake self-employed riders to deliver from the dark supermarkets in place of the employed (sub-contracted) riders who are on strike. Their plan back-fired. Instead of scabbing, we have seen video footage of the not-so-autonomous riders arriving at the sites and joining the picket lines in solidarity. The striking riders remain in control of the dark supermarkets, which continue to be completely shut, while Glovo has been reported to the Labour Inspectorate by the union, CCOO, for illegal strike-breaking.
Digital labour platforms try to foster a sense of intense competition between workers for gigs, but this strike shows it is possible to build solidarity between gig workers when they see that they have collective power and are far stronger when united.
GEP published a report on the first day of the strike on Friday which you can read here.
We also spoke to Carmen Juares, CCOO Catalunya's head of New Labour Realities who has been leading organising of the strike for the union, about the strike and the importance of big unions being willing to "step out of our comfort zone and innovate" to organise in the gig economy. You can read the interview here in Spanish and here in English.
Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator
Gig Economy news round-up
- UBER HYPOCRISY: In the UK, Uber are now trying to present themselves as the private hire industry's guardian of workers' rights, issuing a joint statement with trade union GMB saying an estimated 230,000 private hire drivers were not receiving their "legal rights" at other private hire firms, like Bolt and Addison Lee. That may well be true, but neither is Uber applying by the Supreme Court's judgement in February in full. The judge found that Uber drivers should be paid from log-in to log-out, not only when they catch a ride, a conclusion that Uber has entirely ignored. Private hire unions IWGB and ADCU have issued statements condemning Uber's hypocrisy.
- OCADO PAY SHAME: Online retailer Ocado has been paying its rapid delivery service workers, 'Ocado Zoom', less than the minimum wage. One worker, Babar, earned as little as £2.91 an hour in the last week of July. The drivers are represented by the IWGB, who's President Alex Marshall has written to the company's board warning them that strikes are on the way unless they get it sorted. A strike hardship fund has been launched.
- 'ONLYFANS' U-TURN: The subscription-based creator platform OnlyFans has reversed plans to stop sexually explicit content on its site, after stating that all porn would be banned from 1 October. The planned ban was met with anger from sex workers, with fears that many would turn to prostitution if they can no longer create content on the site. OnlyFans has claimed the u-turn was because banks and payment providers have stepped back from tough restrictions on the platform because of its sexually explicit content.
- DIDI SUSPENDS EUROPEAN LAUNCH: The Chinese private hire giant and rival to Uber, Didi Chuxing, has suspended plans to launch in Europe, as the company faces regulatory pressure at home due to China's crackdown on platform monopolies. Didi already operates in Japan, Australia, South America and South Africa, and had secured licences to operate in three UK cities, but has pushed back launch plans for at least 12 months and told staff working on the launch that they may face redundancy.
- ELITE TAXI AT THE ECJ: The Elite Taxi Association, a union of taxi drivers in Spain, is once again pursuing the private hire platforms through the courts, in this case taking Cabify to the European Court of Justice, in defense of restricting private hire licences in Spain to one for every 30 taxis. Elite Taxi is currently fighting no less than five litigation efforts against the digital platforms, and has launched a fundraising effort to support this work.
- UBER EATS SUB-CONTRACTING PLANS REVEALED: Following the Riders' Law's enforcement, Uber Eats announced it would be using a sub-contracting model of employment, a move which Spanish union CCOO denounced to the Labour Inspectorate, claiming that it is an illegal transfer of workers. Now, it has been revealed that the three sub-contracting firms Uber Eats is working with all have strong links to the gig economy. The apple never falls far from the tree.
- EX AFGHAN MINISTER IS A RIDER IN GERMANY: Sayed Sadaat, a former communications minister in the now-toppled Afghan Government, is now working as a rider for Lieferando in Leipzig. Sadaat said he had faced criticism at home for the job move, but that he hoped "other politicians also follow the same path, working with the public rather than just hiding."