͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ 
Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
Image description

At the Gig Economy Project we are of course interested in the gig economy, but we are also interested in those resisting the gigification (or, 'Uberisation', as it's more commonly known) of their industry. That's why we have had such a close eye on the struggle of Barcelona's 'Taxistas' over the past two years since GEP launched, especially via their most representative union, Elité Taxi Barcelona, who we met last year at one of their mobilisations and interviewed their leader, Alberto 'Tito' Àlvarez. 

Elité Taxi and Tito are interesting because the union came into existence in 2014 specifically because of the threat posed by Uber to the Catalan capital's taxi drivers. Tito, who attends protests and strikes wearing his 'f** Uber' yellow vest, has always been clear that his aim is to keep Uber, Bolt, Cabify - and any other private hire platform which has the potential to undermine the Taxistas livelihoods - out of the city. 

Furthermore, Elité Taxi have always actively sought to ally with and support the struggles of gig workers in Barcelona and across Europe, based on a clear understanding that the fight against precarious work is the same working class struggle whether you are currently experiencing precarity or if you are threatened by the prospect of precarity. This is no empty rhetoric - everywhere Uber is found, taxi drivers pay and conditions plummet, to the extent that many leave the trade altogether.

Elité Taxi Barcelona's struggle against Uberisation began eight years ago and has been full of ups and downs, with Uber pushed out of the city in 2019 only to make a botched return in 2021. Since then, Uber has taken legal action against Elité Taxi and visa-versa. On Tuesday [5 July], there was perhaps the most definitive moment so far in this battle for Barcelona. The Catalan Government announced that it was introducing legislation which would effectively limit private hire platforms (VTCs) to limousines and passenger vans. 

“The taxi is a public service for mobility in the city and the VTCs have to offer another service," Laia Bonet, the President of the Metropolitan Taxi Institute, said after the law was announced.

You can read GEP's full report on this huge victory for Barcelona's Taxistas here, but suffice to say this new law did not come about simply because of the power of Elité Taxi's arguments. The union organised a four-hour strike in May as a "warning" to Catalan politicians, and threatened to "go to war" almost two weeks ago after a weaker draft of the law was leaked. Subsequent negotiations between the government and Elité Taxi led to the union suspending plans for further mobilisations. The point is, it's the power the union has to disrupt one of your Europe's most important metropoles which led to such a strong law, by far the strongest of any of Spain's 'autonomous communities' so far. That disruption has not just included strikes and 'slow marches' through the city centre, but also airport, train and road blockades. 

It's that militancy and unity which explains how a tiny union can defeat a global behemoth like Uber. Although he battle's not over yet. The Barcelona platform taxi lobby, Unauto-VTC, which described the new law as "a noose" around the sector's neck, has threatened the Catalan Government with legal action, while the Brussels' platform lobby is already getting to work

"We hope that this grain of sand from the taxi will serve as a reference, although we are aware that our fight does not end here and that the enemy is very powerful and will not stop at this obstacle," Tito has written. "In the meantime, let us celebrate this success, which is not definitive, but it is a great success, the fruit of tireless struggle."

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

Image description

Gig Economy news round-up

  • DELIVERY HERO AND GLOVO RAIDED IN EU ANTI-TRUST INVESTIGATION: German food delivery multinational Delivery Hero and Glovo, the largest food delivery firm in Spain which Delivery Hero recently purchased, were raided on Wednesday [6 July] as part of a European Commission investigation into possible cartel activity. "The investigation concerns an alleged agreement or concerted practice to share national markets for the online ordering and delivery of food, groceries and other consumer goods in the European Union," the EU anti-trust agency said in a press statement. Delivery Hero, which is headquartered in Berlin and owns a number of food delivery brands around the world, said the raid at its HQ does not mean the Commission had concluded there had been an infringement of competition law and it was cooperating fully with authorities. Glovo was raided at its HQ in Barcelona, also said they were co-operating, but would not comment further. Delivery Hero announced a 94% stake in Glovo in a New Year's Eve deal which has proven controversial with financial investors, with a HSBC analysis claiming it looked "more like a bailout". Delivery Hero officially closed the deal for Glovo on Tuesday, with CEO Niklas Ostberg saying the investment offered "operational synergies". If found to have breached competition laws, Delivery Hero could face a fine of 10% of its global turnover. Read more here
  • STUART COURIERS SACKED BECAUSE OF FAULTY GPS SYSTEM, UNION CLAIMS: Dozens of Stuart Delivery couriers in the UK have been de-activated from the app, and in effect made redundant, after being misdirected by the company's cut-price GPS system, the IWGB union has claimed. Messages seen by The Observer show a senior manager at Stuart stating that the company began to use an in-house GPS which is "not great" because Google Maps "put the price up x10". When a courier responded to the manager by saying "people get terminated for allegedly deviating from routes and you just said it is wrong”, the manager replied "it's not perfect yes". The IWGB said they had investigated 55 cases of app terminations since March last year and in most cases couriers had no opportunity for a human review of the decision. Stuart, which is a sub-contractor of Just Eat, Europe's biggest food delivery platform, has also been criticised for cutting driver pay at the end of last year, a move which sparked the longest ever strike in the history of the gig economy in the north of England, which is still ongoing. Read more here
  • UNION ASKS FOR MEETING WITH MINISTER AS GORILLAS ITALY LIQUIDATES: Gorillas, the grocery delivery firm, has liquidated its operations in Italy, making 540 workers unemployed. The 4 July liquidation has led to a critical response from the Fit-Cisl union, who have asked for a meeting with the Italian Government's Labour Minister, Andrea Orlando, to discuss the mass layoffs. The liquidation re-opens "the debate on how these food delivery platforms are established in our country, in the absence of clear and defined rules that protect female and male workers", the union said. Gorillas, a Berlin-based delivery firm which launched in 2020, had only established itself in Italy 13 months ago, but the company has completely switched strategy as the economic turmoil of the inflation crisis and the receding of the pandemic has led venture capitalists away from investing in grocery delivery. Gorillas has pulled out of Belgium, Spain, Italy and Denmark, as well as making hundreds of staff at its Berlin HQ unemployed. "While this was an extremely difficult decision to make, these are necessary moves," Gorillas said in a statement regarding the Italy liquidation. Read more here
  • BERLIN PROTEST AS STREET FLEET LAYS OFF ITS RIDERS: All of the Berlin riders at Street Fleet, a sub-contractor that is owned by Gorillas, are being sacked, as the company says it is set to close at the end of July. Street Fleet riders have been known to work on an agency basis for Gorillas and Just Eat. Gorillas has said it will hire a “sizeable number of Street Fleet riders into its own crew”, but has not said how many. Riders accuse the company of failing to pay them for up to three months, and worry that they will not be paid for their remaining time working there. A protest was organised last weekend with riders holding a banner stating "pay us on time!!". Riders have also told 'Sifted' that they haven't received payslips for two months, which is a legal requirement. The closure of Street Fleet is the latest sign of collapse at Gorillas, the grocery delivery platform which was Europe's fastest ever 'Unicorn' after it launched in 2020 but is now cutting jobs, closing operations in four countries and its main distribution centre in one other (the Netherlands). It has been reported that the company is exploring possibilities for a merger or a sale. Read more here.
  • FRENCH APPEAL COURT FINDS DELIVEROO GUILTY OF "MORAL HARASSMENT": The Paris Court of Appeal has defended the decision of a Parisian Court in April which found that Deliveroo was guilty of criminal charges of "concealed work" for failing to employ its riders between 2015 and 2017, and also added to the charge sheet that the company is guilty of "moral harassment", due to the "pressure exerted" on its riders, with numerous messages in an "aggressive and threatening tone". Deliveroo, a British-owned firm, had appealed against the historic court judgement in April, which saw ex Deliveroo Executives given suspended prison sentences and barred from sitting on company boards, after attaining two favourable judgements in the second instance, but with no such luck this time. The 6 July judgement may not be the end of the matter, as the lawyer for the riders, Kevin Mention, has said he will pursue a civil action for forgery, on the basis of documents used in previous trials which Deliveroo had won which he believes to have been falsified. If the court agrees, there could be a re-trial for the riders, Mention said. 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

Image description

Taxistas beat Uber in battle for Barcelona

Catalan Government’s new law to regulate private hire platforms effectively restricts them to limousines and passenger vans.

From around the web

Image description

Gorillas' retreat signals a reckoning for delivery apps

Morgan Meaker looks at the retreat of grocery delivery firm Gorillas from four European countries, as the 'growth-before-profits' business model evaporates.

Image description

Migration and migrant labour in the gig economy: an intervention

New paper by gig economy scholars Niels Van Doorn, Fabian Ferrari and Mark Graham argues that reclassification of gig work is not sufficient to counter the precarisation of migrant gig work.

Image description

Tech won't fix the transport system w/ Paris Marx

Paris Marx speaks about their newly-released book 'Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong about the Future of Transportation' in this 'Tech Won't Save Us' podcast.

Upcoming events

- Fair Work will hold an online summit on 14th of September titled 'Fair Work on Digital Platforms'. For full details and to register click here.

- The 2022 Re-Shaping Work Conference will be held in Amsterdam on the 13-14 October. 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.

If you want to unsubscribe, click here.