Between 9 and 16 May, France's ride-hailing drivers and delivery couriers were called to vote to elect their representatives in the ARPE, a public body responsible for managing 'social dialogue' between digital platforms and workers. The election was, by anyone's criteria, a fiasco.
First, it's important to understand the context. In 2016, platform workers in France were given the status of independents. The ARPE was supposedly created in April 2021 as a means for these independents to have collective representation. The body's first job was to organise the election of platform workers to its council. However, the reality of ARPE was exposed by French President Emmanuel Macron's appointment by decree of Bruno Mettling, author of Uber's contribution to the 2020 Frouin Report, to lead the new department.
If the intention was to give the elections legitimacy, Mettling was a strange choice, but all credibility was undermined after L'Humanite reported that Uber staff were working as election organisers and using their own mechanisms to encourage drivers and couriers to vote. Turnout was a disaster: 1.83% participation of couriers and 3.91% of drivers, making up around 3000 votes out of 123,000 who were eligible.
The most representative unions of couriers and drivers, CLAP and INV – who have been the most active in mobilising workers in the last years – boycotted the election. FNAE and AVF, who support self-employed status, received the most votes. CGT was the first trade union among riders, but reported that many couriers did not receive their voting credentials and highlighted the exclusion of minors and undocumented migrants – who make-up a substantial section of the riders – from the voting process. Other claims of irregularity were made by the CNT-SO, contesting that they received information on the role of elected representatives only after the opening of the applications. CNT-SO has asked for the annulment of the election, and a hearing will decide on this matter on 7 June.
What happens next? The 'representatives' will negotiate on working conditions, remuneration, risk prevention and development of professional competences. These representatives, from a mix of different organisations representing workers at a variety of platforms, will negotiate with one and only one platform organisation, the API, whose members include Deliveroo and Uber, and is chaired by Hervé Novelli, ex French Secretary of State and father of the statute for France's 'self-entrepreneur' status.
Whether platform workers will take any notice of what is agreed at APRE is another question. The massive abstention confirms a total lack of legitimacy. The French Government will hope that this process can still allow platforms to claim that even self-employed workers can obtain certain rights, but the 'social dialogue' in which it is based verges on parody.
Piero Valmassoi, EU policy expert specialising in the platform economy
Gig Economy news round-up
- BARCELONA TAXI DRIVERS STRIKE IN "WARNING" TO LAWMAKERS: Taxi drivers in Elité Taxi Barcelona shut down the centre of the Catalan capital on Wednesday as a "warning" to lawmakers not to introduce regulations which could open the door to Uberisation, according to Elité's leader Alberto 'Tito' Alvarez. Barcelona is one of the few major cities in Europe where Uber, the US ridehail giant, does not have a significant presence, largely due to strikes and protests by Elité Taxi and support from their allies in Catalonia's 'Generalitat'. Four-thousand 'taxistas' took part in the four hour strike, from 10-2pm, as the drivers demanded that the 30 to 1 ratio - whereby for every 30 taxis in the city there can only be one private hire car (VTC) - is maintained. The Catalan Parliament must introduce new VTC regulations by 1 October as the current temporary regulations are set to expire. The Catalan Government responded to the strike by stating "they are working" to maintain the 30 to 1 ratio. Read more here.
- DROPP WORKERS ESTABLISH WORKS' COUNCIL: Couriers at Dropp, an e-commerce rapid delivery platform based in Berlin, elected representatives to its Works' Council on Monday, after management failed in an effort to block the election at a court in Berlin last week. Dropp, which organises its delivery via neighbourhood 'dark stores' in a similar set-up to grocery delivery firms like Gorillas and Getir, only launched in October last year, but has already seen a unionisation effort emerge at the firm, with the 'Dropp Workers Organize' twitter account accusing the management of seeking to "union bust" through "bullying" tactics. A workers' assembly was held on 7 May with workers voting to establish a Works' Council, which in Germany gives workers legal rights within the company, such as official representation on the board. Read more here.
- COMMUNITY DEFENDS LONDON RIDERS FROM IMMIGRATION RAID: Food delivery couriers were among those targeted in an immigration raid in the Dalston community in North London last Saturday [14 May]. News of the police raid spread and around 500 people mobilised to resist the attempted deportation. The raid has been seen as the latest effort by Hackney Council and Hackney Police to force food delivery couriers out of Dalston, an increasingly gentrified area. The couriers, some of whom are in the IWGB union, have protested and taken strike action in recent months to demand a safe waiting area in response to efforts to force them out of Ashwin Street, the location of the raid. The raid began with police claiming to want to check riders motor insurance, with one police officer demanding to know if someone on a bike had food delivery apps on his phone. As more police arrived, the cops then said they were also pursuing riders for immigration offences. The police then turned violent when protesters resisted the detention of riders, with one suffering a fractured elbow. Read more here.
- HOSPITALITY SECTOR CRITICISES GLOVO FOR CHANGE TO BILLING SYSTEM: The Cantabria Hospitality Business Association (AEHC) has criticised Glovo, Spain's largest food delivery platform, for changing its billing system in an attempt to distance itself from an employment relationship with its riders. AEHC said the change could "place hospitality companies as responsible for the hiring and contribution of" Glovo riders. The Rider's Law introduced a presumption of employment for all food delivery couriers last August, but Glovo has refused to employ the majority of its riders, with the Labour Inspectorate carrying out an investigation which reports suggest is set to lead to a big fine for the firm. The change to the billing system was announced last month, and Angel Cuevas, chair of the AEHC, said that it is an attempt "to avoid the 'Rider Law' and to do so misinforms its customers by explaining that the new rule provides that couriers are self-employed, when in reality the rule establishes the opposite." Cuevas added that "the confusion generated by this start-up, unlike the positions that others have maintained, generates concern among the hospitality sector about the consequences that it may generate in a service that has been essential for the hospitality industry in recent years". Read more here.
- DELIVEROO AGM BECOMES "UNOFFICIAL MEETING" WITH IWGB: All but one of the questions for CEO Will Shu at the AGM of Deliveroo, the British food delivery platform part-owned by Amazon, came from the IWGB union, after they teamed up with Share Action to fill the event with union representatives. The union said the event turned into an "unofficial meeting" between IWGB Deliveroo members and the CEO. Shu was quizzed on algorithmic transparency, pay, BAME and migrant workers, workers' rights, and the company's controversial union recognition agreement with GMB, signed last week. Asked how many Deliveroo riders were in the GMB, Shu said he didn't know. Asked whether the GMB deal was part of a change in the company's policies towards unions more broadly, Shu said the company would decide which unions it wanted to to engage with. Asked why he had signed a "backroom deal with the GMB which excludes riders", Shu said he rejected that description, citing the union's support for self-employment status as a reason for the 'partnership'. The IWGB has been highly critical of the GMB-Deliveroo agreement, claiming it is an attempt to undermine their efforts to organise Deliveroo couriers since 2016. 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.