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The Gig Economy Project has spent the last week in Berlin exploring the movement of food and grocery delivery workers organising in the German capital. Over the coming week we will publish articles and a podcast which will provide a detailed picture of what we found, but for now three short reflections will suffice.

First, the movement in Berlin is, as far as we are aware, unique in Europe in the intensity of the organising that is happening and its entirely grassroots construction. A committed core of unpaid rider-organisers who work for multiple platforms are organising together day-by-day. The Gorillas workers council office is the hub of the action, and attracts not just riders and pickers looking for tactical and legal support but even ex-managers and ex-supervisors looking to share information to support their own legal fights and out of solidarity, and a posse of journalists looking for stories. 

Key to the evolution of this organising approach has been the establishment of Workers Councils (WC), most prominently at Gorillas, but it is an ambition for the rider-organisers in all of the major platforms in Berlin. Every sizeable workplace has the right to establish a WC in Germany, which is elected directly by the workers and is responsible for officially representing them on all key industrial relations issues. While WCs which operate at arms-length from the rank-and-file can sometimes be an impediment to organising, when led by the the grassroots worker collectives of Berlin’s food delivery sector it “gives us authority,” as the chair of the Dropp Workers Council put it.

Second, Gorillas - the Berlin-founded grocery delivery platform which became Europe’s fastest ever ‘Unicorn’ last year - is in even more trouble than we thought. Systemic problems have been well documented at the company, but when you hear it directly from ex warehouse managers, ex supervisors, former HQ staff, as well as riders, it really hits home. The 320 job cuts last week is likely to be just the start of a very chaotic attempt to adapt to a new context where the company is no longer growing rapidly and struggling to attract more venture capital. One to keep a close eye on.

Finally, testimonies from workers and activists crystallised in our minds the importance of migrant labour to this sector. It really can’t be emphasised enough that the gig model only survives because its largely migrant workforce are either unaware of their rights and how to access them, or are aware but don’t act on that knowledge because they know they could pay a very high price by even attempting to do so. 

And when we talk about 'rights' here, we mean the most basic things, like being paid the wages you have earned on time and in full. The issue of short-term Visas was raised again and again in conversations in Berlin about hurdles to organising: many workers fear they don’t just risk losing their job, but losing their right to residency. There’s no doubt platforms are aware of this fact and exploit it relentlessly. Nonetheless, some of the key rider-organisers in Berlin are on short-term Visas, or have even had their Visas run-out, which shows that it possible to choose fight over fear.

It’s worth keeping an eye on our Twitter or our website this week as we develop these observations in detail. Or if you prefer to wait, the links will all be available in next week’s newsletter.


Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • GLOVO ACCUSED OF A "CHEAT" BONUS BY RIDERS: Riders in Barcelona working for Glovo, Spain's largest food delivery platform, have denounced the lack of payment of "cheat" bonus and supplements which are charged to customers. Riders have told 'Metrópoli' that customers are charged a night rate of €1.99, but it is applied at the exact moment when bonuses for the day are at their lowest, meaning the supplement does not show up in their income. There is another customer charge called "extra to the delivery man for bad weather" (€2.99), but the riders say that the pay they receive for these deliveries is often worth less than the value of the bonus. Screenshots appear to verify this. Glovo continues to hire riders on a self-employed basis despite the passing of the Riders Law last August, which was supposed to establish a presumption of employment for all riders in Spain. Read more here
  • AMAZON STILL DOES NOT HIRE DELIVERY DRIVERS IN SPAIN DESPITE RIDERS LAW: Amazon has sought to avoid the so-called Riders Law in Spain, which requires platforms to employ their delivery workers, by setting up an intermediary company for the workers to be hired through. Previously the self-employed delivery workers were part of 'Amazon Flex', but after the Riders Law the company instead set-up Delivery Service Partner (DSP) whereby people who are willing to put up €30,000 can hire the delivery workers and in return get profits of between €50,000-100,000, according to 'El Diario'. The workers still deliver Amazon packages, wear Amazon's uniform, drive vans with the Amazon logo, use the Amazon delivery app and are managed by an Amazon computer system. DSP is now responsible for 50% of all Amazon package deliveries in Spain. One delivery person, a spokesperson for the Association of Drivers of Amazon Spain (ADAE), said: “What they tell you is that according to the data that Amazon gives them, you are not meeting certain metrics and that you are not doing your job well. In the end, you are in the hands of Amazon." Amazon "categorically" denies that it manages the delivery workers. Rubén Ranz from the UGT union said it was "a full-fledged illegal assignment of workers", and has denounced the company to the Labour Inspectorate. Read more here
  • UNION SAYS JUST EAT WORKER WAS FIRED IN "CASE OF INDIRECT RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION": The IWGB union, which represents food delivery workers in the UK, has said a delivery driver for Just Eat was fired after he refused to enter a pub on religious grounds, as he is a Muslim. Talib had an order from a pub and he asked bar staff if they'ld bring the order outside, which they agreed, but the order was given to another driver and hours later he was fired by Just Eat. The food delivery platform only told Talib that there were “multiple, unexplained instances associated with the account” and was not given a chance to appeal the decision. The IWGB said: "We believe this to be a case of indirect religious discrimination, and urge Just Eat to acknowledge Talib only acted respectfully and did nothing out of order. We demand they respect his right to practice his faith rather than punish him for this." Read more here.
  • DROPP WORKERS COUNCIL OFFERED TINY WINDOWLESS ROOM: The new Workers Council at Dropp, a Berlin-based e-commerce delivery firm launched in October last year, has been offered a tiny, windowless room as office space. Under German industrial relations laws, workers can elect a Workers Council to officially represent them in the company in negotiations, and the company must provide the resources for the Works Council to effectively function, including office space. But lawyer Martin Bechert, which represents food delivery couriers in Berlin, tweeted a picture of what effectively looked like a closet which he said had been offered to the Workers Council. The 'Dropp workers organize' Twitter account reacted by saying "Harry Potter would be jealous". The Dropp Workers Council elections took place two weeks ago, after management failed in an effort to block the election in a Berlin court the week previously. Yakub, a Dropp worker who is the chairperson of the Workers Council, said later that "there has been several interesting efforts at union busting in recent weeks". Read more here.
  • JUST EAT COULD MAKE $6 BILLION LOSS IN GRUBHUB SALE: The Dutch food delivery platform Just Eat Takeaway could sell GrubHub, the US platform it bought only two years ago for $7.3 billion, for just over a billion, in what would be a $6 billion loss. The claim of a possible bargain basement sale came in a Sunday Times article [29 May]. Just Eat declined to comment on the story. Europe's biggest food delivery platform, Just Eat has seen its stock value decline sharply over the past year as the pandemic has eased and the cost of living crisis intensified. Ahead of the company's AGM, investor Cat Rock Capital publicly criticised the decision of Just Eat's management to purchase GrubHub, calling it a "capital allocation mistake". The company has admitted it is considering a sale, and it has also pulled out of the Portuguese and Norwegian markets in recent months. 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.

On GEP this week

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Carlos Rodríguez Expósito, Vanessa Millán Buitrago: In defence of taxis and public services in Madrid


Carlos Rodríguez Expósito, responsible for Taxi Project in Madrid, and Vanessa Millán Buitrago, Deputy Mayor, Councillor for Ecological Transition and Spokesperson for Podemos in Rivas Vaciamadrid, write for the Gig Economy Project against yesterday’s transport law reform in the Community of Madrid, which favours private hire platforms like Uber and Bolt at the expense of taxis. Expósito and Buitrago say an alternative form of governing is possible in the Spanish capital.

Puedes leer en Español aquí.

From around the web

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Gamification took over the gig economy: who's really winning?

Jackie Davalos and Drake Bennett with an interesting long read in Bloomberg on how gig workers are beginning to grow weary of gamification.

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On the way to the collective

Jay Parker interviews Esther from the Cat courier collective in Haale, Germany about the progress of the collective since its founding two years ago.

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National survey of gig workers paints a picture of poor working conditions, low pay

The Economic Policy Institute in the United States has produced a national survey of gig workers. Key findings in this press release.

Upcoming events

- The UK Fair Work platform ratings will be announced at an online event on 8 June, 11 am (BST). Click here for more details and to register.

- The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung is hosting an online conference on 'Online Platforms, Platform Work & Platform Workers in Nordic countries and Germany: What can we learn from each other?' The conference will take place on 8 June, register by 6 June. For full details and to register click here.

- Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) are hosting an event in co-operation with the European Trade Union Confederation titled 'Work Ahead: Labour in the Platform Economy' in Brussels on 14 June, 12.30-5.30pm. Click here for full details and to register.

- The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at Oxford University is hosting a conference on "the race to regulate AI: Global comparative perspectives". The event will be both in-person and online on the 30 June. For full details and to register click here

- The 2022 Re-Shaping Work Conference will be held in Amsterdam on the 13-14 October. The call for papers is open until 1 June. Read more here.

Know of more events 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.

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.

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