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In Valencia, a small but highly symbolic victory against sub-contracting was won on Thursday [9 June]. 

The Provincial Inspection of Labour and Social Security of Valencia issued a resolution stating Just Eat must employ 150 of its riders directly, rather than via a subcontractor. The resolution found that Just Eat's contracts via the temporary employment company JY Hiring were fraudulent. Along with direct hiring, Just Eat must provide the proper conditions for the riders to work, including changing rooms with a specific space for women, and it must undertake an assessment of the psychosocial risks to its riders from the job.

The resolution stemmed from a complaint made by the CNT union in Valencia, and following the ruling the union's legal advisor, Antonio Ruiz, stated: "We are showing that the union struggle is effective in dignifying and stabilising employment, putting an end to intermediaries that make it even more precarious".

Why does this matter? Just Eat is Europe's largest food delivery platform and has received praise for employing its riders, but the majority are employed via sub-contractors which are notorious for poor working conditions. Indeed, as we have written previously in this newsletter, detaching the principal company from responsibility for worker conditions is one of the main reasons for sub-contracting, so as to "separate power and profits, on one side, from risks and responsibilities, on the other side", as a study into sub-contracting by the European Trade Union Confederation found.

In Germany, Lieferando is the brand which Just Eat operates under, and Max from the Lieferando Workers Collective in Berlin told GEP that he believes 95% of the company's riders in the German capital are not hired directly. Instead, they are either employed by the restaurant which Just Eat delivers from or, more commonly, through sub-contractors which hire riders to work for different platforms, including Lieferando, on an agency basis. While Lieferando boasts that it only employs riders on permanent contracts, this "only applies to the 5%," Max says. 

Not only does sub-contracting disguise the reality of the working conditions of Lieferando's riders, in the context of the cost of living crisis and falling demand for food delivery, these riders are being laid off on mass without Just Eat having to do so much as acknowledge that fact in a press release.

"In Berlin in the last months the number of Lieferando couriers decreased from above 2,000 to below 2,000, by around about 300 workers," Max says. "Those are 300 workers that everyone would be making a fuss about at Gorillas, but nobody speaks about it at Lieferando because nobody knows."

Gorillas, which had started life promising to hire all its riders directly, is also increasingly moving towards a sub-contracting model in Berlin as well, as most of it's recent hires have been through the student temporary employment agency Zenjobs, according to current and former Gorillas employees. Suffice to say, organising Zenjobs-employed Gorillas riders through the Gorillas Workers Council is a much harder task than organising direct Gorillas employees. 

Of course, the riders working for Gorillas and Lieferando via sub-contractors are all being instructed on where to deliver by the Gorillas and Lieferando algorithms, which is why there is a legitimate legal case to say that the sub-contractors are not the riders real bosses. This is the basis upon which CNT Valencia won its legal case, and it might be necessary for unions to make the same argument in courts all over Europe, especially if politicians continue to be reluctant to crackdown on the scourge of sub-contracting.


Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • RIGHT-WING AND LIBERAL MEPs PUSH BACK AGAINST RAPPORTEUR'S REPORT: The right-wing European People's Party and liberal Renew Group of MEPs have proposed amendments seeking to undermine the draft report of the European Parliament rapporteur, Social Democratic MEP Elisabetta Gualmini, on the European Commission's draft platform work directive. The Italian MEP had published a report last month which sought to broaden the scope of the Directive to all workers who are subject to automatic monitoring systems and strengthen the parts of the Directive relating to human oversight of algorithmic management. Gualmini's proposals were met with a furious response by the platform lobby and now the right-wing of the European Parliament are pushing back, with three amendments that would in effect rip up Gualmini's text, and even seek to radically water down the proposals of the European Commission. The proposals include a "code of conduct" which would regulations a non-binding, "self-regulation approach" and another amendment seeking to protect platforms from having to disclose substantive information on the algorithm. The amendments will either be debated by the EP in July or September. Read more here.
  • FAIR WORK UK 2022 RATINGS ANNOUNCED: The academic-action project Fair Work has released it's 2022 ratings on digital labour platforms in the UK. The report finds that the number of UK workers who have performed platform work at least once has almost doubled in six years, from 11.5 per cent in 2016 to 22.6 per cent in 2022. They fined that UK labour legal context "is one of liberalisation and underregulation". The top rated platform was 'Pedal Me', a passenger and cargo service platform operating in London, which received a score of 9 out of 10, while private hire platform Bolt received 0 out of 10, the lowest possible rating. The ratings were criticised by the App Drivers & Couriers Union because Uber was awarded a point for 'fair contract'. The "new Uber contract is neither fair, transparent or even legal", the ADCU tweeted. Read the report in full here
  • UBER DRIVERS MUST BE EMPLOYED IN GENEVA, COURT FINDS: Uber has faced a blow in Switzerland after the Federal Court ruled that the verdict of a lower Geneva court, that Uber drivers in the Swiss city must be employed, stands. Uber had attempted to overturn the Geneva court's 2019 ruling through appeal, but the Federal Court stated that "the cantonal court did not rule arbitrarily when it ruled that Uber drivers working in Geneva had an employment relationship with Uber BV. The Federal Court dismisses the corresponding appeal.” Uber has been told to cease operations in Geneva until it is ready to comply with the law, and confirmed that it would do so, but did not say it would employ its drivers, instead stating that "drivers do not want to be employed" and that it will "resume contact with the authorities to find a solution acceptable to all". Uber has been operating in Switzerland since 2014, and various other regional courts have court rulings on employment status pending. Read more here.
  • STUART DELIVERY FACE BARCELONA COURT OVER FALSE SELF-EMPLOYMENT: Stuart Delivery, the French multinational, is in court in Barcelona accused of failing to employ 108 delivery couriers in the Catalan capital. The case is being pursued by the Labour Inspectorate after a formal complaint was filed by campaign group 'RidersXDerechos'. The case is based on an investigation from 2016 to 2019, before the 'Rider's Law', which requires food delivery platforms to hire riders as employees as default, came into force. The investigation also found that 400 Stuart Riders in Madrid were in the same situation. The Labour Inpsectorate is demanding €237,000 to cover unpaid contributions by the company over the four years. In the UK, Stuart Delivery couriers are participating in the longest ever strike in the gig economy, which has lasted over six months. Read more here
  • TAXI PROJECT CRITICISES SPANISH UNIONS' SUPPORT FOR MADRID PRIVATE HIRE LAW: The Taxi Project and Elité Taxi Barcelona have slammed the two big Spanish unions, CCOO and UGT, for backing the Community of Madrid's new law for regulating private hire drivers in the Spanish capital and calling on other regional governments to do the same. The law was introduced as private hire drivers for companies like Uber and Cabify will no longer be permitted to drive from 28 September onwards due to the 'Abalos Decree', which established a four year period from 2018 for autonomous communities to develop their own regulations for private hire platforms. The Community of Madrid, lead by right-wing PP politician Isabel Diez Ayuso, is currently the only autonomous community to pass legislation, which it did last week, in a law that was condemned by the taxi unions as an attack on the taxi. Responding to the CCOO and UGT letter, which was signed alongside other unions which represent private hire drivers, the Taxi Project said that they were "being complicit in Ayuso's strategy to favour Uber, Cabify, Bolt and the VTC employers, condemning thousands of workers and families who live from taxis". Elite Taxi Barcelona said: "All those who sign this statement are public enemies of the Taxi sector, the employers governed by Uber, Bolt and Cabify once again use the useful fools to sell their lies and the useful fools lend themselves to it, ignoring why they were born and what they defend". 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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Gorillas in Berlin: Chronic problems and mounting divisions

The Gig Economy Project has spoken to current and former employees at Gorillas, the grocery delivery platform, in Berlin. They tell a story of systemic problems at the company which are causing serious issues for its workers on the frontline and intensifying conflict within the firm.

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Inside Berlin's food delivery workers movement

Ben Wray, the Gig Economy Project’s co-ordinator, recently travelled to Berlin to find out about the vibrant grassroots movement of gig workers in the city, organised via worker collectives. Here’s what he found.

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Podcast - Work and resistance in Germany's platform economy: Interview with Oğuz Alyanak

What’s distinctive about Germany’s platform economy? How are platform workers in the country organising themselves to fight for better working conditions? The Gig Economy Project spoke to Oğuz Alyanak, Fair Work researcher in Berlin, to find out. Interview also available in text form.

From around the web

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Book: Collective bargaining and the gig economy

José María Miranda Boto and Elisabeth Brameshuber have edited a new open-access collection published by Bloomberg.

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The ten minute promise

Journalist Laura Carrer writes in IRPI Media about grocery delivery platforms eating up the urban space of cities (in Italian).

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Myanmar FoodPanda strike: Delivery Hero Riders United

FoodPanda couriers in Myanmar went on strike on 6 June. Workers at Delivery Hero-owned platforms show their solidarity from around the world.

Upcoming events

- 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 Lieferando Workers Collective in Berlin has called a demonstration "to fight dehumanising working conditions" on 14 June, 6pm on 29 Kochstrasse, outside the Lieferando hub. Click here for full details. 

- 'How to sustain strike action and win' will hear from the Stuart Delivery couriers, who have been on strike for over half a year, on 15 June online, click here to register and for full details.

- The App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) has announced a Bolt strike action and demonstration in the UK on 15 June, as the company continues to refuse to employ its drivers despite the UK Supreme Court verdict last year. Click here for full details. 

- The ADCU has also announced a 24-hour Uber strike on 22 June. There will be a demonstration at Aldgate Tower in London, 11am BST. Click here for full details.

- 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.

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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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