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An interesting report in the FT this week about Deliveroo, the UK-based food delivery company, gives food for thought. The company, part-owned by Amazon, reported that the gross value of its customers transactions had risen 70 per cent in 2021. CEO Will Shu said he expected that growth to continue into 2022, and was not concerned at all about the EU Commission's platform work directive proposal, published in December.

In fact, Shu was "positive about the proposals” as he thought they would “confirm that the majority [of riders] are self-employed. Member states will interpret things differently.” 

He added: “There may or may not be an impact on unit economics but if riders were employees then you would counteract by operating an employee fleet.”

Shu doesn't exactly get top marks for clarity, but we can interpret his remarks like this: he thinks there's sufficient wriggle room in the Directive for member-states to apply the law in such a way that riders will still be able to be hired on a 'self-employed' basis, and that at most some full-time riders will be employed whilst the rest won't (hence "employee fleet"). (Note: this is the model that Glovo is currently operating in Spain, where 20% of riders are hired by the company for its 'dark kitchen' operations while the rest continue to be self-employed (although this is being challenged by the Labour Inspectorate)). 

The Gig Economy Project asked Leïla Chaibi, France Insoumise MEP who led the campaign for a strong EU platform work directive, about Shu's comments at an online event on Friday, and she was not surprised. In a debate with a CEO of a French gig platform recently, he had told Chaibi that having read the platform work directive he was not concerned by the criteria for employment status. 

It's worth reminding ourselves of the five criteria in the Directive: effectively determining pay, binding rules regarding the performance of the work, supervising the work, restricting the freedom to organise one's work, and restricting the possibility to build a client base or work for a third party. Two out of five of this criteria has to be met for a platform worker to be considered an employee. Anyone remotely familiar with food delivery would think that at least four of these are clearly applicable, but multinational firms with expensively paid lawyers may see things rather differently. 

And of course, the Directive will not be turned into law until it is ratified by the EU Council and the EU Parliament. Chaibi added that The Left group in the European Parliament is now preparing to campaign to amend the Directive so that just one of of the five criteria has to be met, while she expects some member-states on the EU Council which are particularly close to the platforms - including France, which has just taken over the presidency of the Council for 2022 - to push to amend the Directive in the other direction, so that "three, four or five" of the criteria has to be met. 

As Nikolaj Villumsen, MEP for Danish left party Enhedslisten, said at the meeting: "The battle over interpretation [of the Directive] has already started." If anyone thought employee status for platform workers in the EU was a done deal, think again.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator


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Gig Economy news round-up

  • GLOVO FACES 300 OPEN LAWSUITS WORLDWIDE: The Spanish food delivery company Glovo has 300 open lawsuits against it in a dozen countries. La Vanguardia has seen a document in Delivery Hero's purchase agreement for Glovo - when it bought 80% of the firm on New Year's Eve - which revealed the enormous number of legal actions against the company, including 172 in Spain, 21 in Italy, 19 in Brazil and 12 in Argentina, despite the company departing the Latin American market in 2020. The company is also facing legal action from a number of state authorities, including the Competition Agency in Croatia and the National Bank of Serbia. Read more here
  • "UBER MEDICS" LAUNCHED IN PORTUGAL: Uber has for the first time launched a telemedicine service, in Portugal's capital city, Lisbon. "Uber Medics" can be found on the same platform used to order food. Users can select a physical visit to their home, a video call or a telephone consultation. Prices range between 20 and 80 Euros, and Uber says it will soon add nurses and physiotherapists to the service. The Portuguese launch is a trial-run for the US-based ridehail giant. Read more here
  • DELIVERY HERO LOSES 20% of STOCK VALUE SINCE GLOVO TAKEOVER: The German multi-national food delivery firm, Delivery Hero, has already lost 20% of its share value since the beginning of the year. The share sell-off comes after the company bought Spanish food delivery platform Glovo on New Year's Eve, and continues a trend over 2021, with the company losing 42% of its share value since January of last year. Credit Suisse is the latest bank to lower its expectations of Delivery Hero's target share price in a report on Tuesday [18 January], following JP Morgan and Barclays. Read more here
  • LONDON RIDERS PROTEST FOR SAFE WAITING AREA: Food delivery couriers in the IWGB union in London protested outside Hackney Council's offices on Thursday [19 January], demanding a safe waiting area and an end to harassment from police and civil enforcement officers outside Kingsland High Street McDonald’s. Attempts to move couriers off Ashwin Street where they previously waited followed plans for the regeneration of a nearby road, condemned by protestors as "gentrification in action". The riders want a safe waiting area installed at Bentley Road car park with toilet access. Read more here.
  • JUST EAT RIDERS PROTEST IN PARIS: Just Eat riders protested outside of the Dutch company's French headquarters in Paris to denounce the company's decision to merge all of its delivery areas in Paris, forcing riders to cycle and drive much further. Just Eat employs its Parisian riders on permanent contracts and pays the minimum wage, but the 'Force Ouvrière' union, which organised the protest, said a significant number of workers had been made redundant in recent weeks. "Delivery distances can go up to 15 or 20 km now, some deliverers travel up to 100 km a day", Jérémy Graça, an FO union representative, said at the protest. Read more here.
  • LIEFERANDO RIDERS IN GERMANY DEMAND SHORTER ROUTES: Riders for Lieferando, the largest food delivery company in Germany, have launched a petition demanding the company "cut the unreasonable delivery routes". Wages were recently raised to €11 per hour at the company, which hires its workers, but the Lieferando Workers' Collective say that "due to the long distances, we get less tips, less bonus and are even more exposed to the dangers of road traffic and the weather. The resulting consequence of the loss of real wages must be stopped." Read the petition 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.

From around the web

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Gig workers were promised a better deal. Then they were outsourced.

The Gig Economy Project is quoted in this report by Morgan Meaker in 'Wired' about outsourcing in the UK's gig economy.

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The Gig Podcast: Platform care

Bama Athreya explores whether platforms in domestic and care work can be opportunity rather than a curse in the latest episode of The Gig Podcast.

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Book: Data and Inequality - geographies of digital exclusion, by Mark Graham and Martin Dittus

This publicly available book published by Pluto Press is part of the 'Radical Geography' series. 

Upcoming events

Stuart Delivery striking riders will hold a protest on Sunday 23 January to call on the company to meet all of its demands. Two out of four demands have now been met but the strike is continuing until the sub-contractor for Just Eat raises pay. The demonstration will be held at 12 noon outside the Town Hall. More details here.

The 'Uberisation and digitalisation of work' conference at the 'Universidad de la República Uruguay will take place on 14-15 April in Montevideo, Uruguay. More details here (in Spanish). 

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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