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The historic Stuart Delivery strike passed its 50th day this week and spread to Middlesbrough. The IWGB-union strike, which is now picketing Greggs bakeries as well as McDonalds to intensify the pressure on the company, has seen two of its demands met, but is still holding out for higher pay and a hiring freeze in Sheffield.

A piece by CorporateWatch about Stuart Delivery has caught our attention this week. The research group takes an in-depth look at the ownership of Stuart, finding that it is a subsidiary of DPD, the parcel delivery firm, which itself is a subsidiary of La Poste, the French postal service, which is 100% owned by the French state. La Poste gave €22 million in initial funding to Stuart in 2015, and then bought the company outright in 2017. 

Posties in France are employees and largely-unionised, and La Poste claims in its annual "Vigilance Plan" that it is committed to "trade union representation for its employees and promotes sustained social dialogue in all its entities within the framework of employee representative bodies.” How, then, does it explain one of "its entities", Stuart Delivery, which hires riders on an independent contractor basis and over the course of this strike has refused to negotiate directly with the union, IWGB?

In the Vigilance Plan it states that "the Stuart subsidiary, which puts clients in contact with independent couriers, has been a pioneer in its field by developing a responsible social model”. Such a claim is increasingly difficult to sustain, not only because of the strike but also because a UK Employment Tribunal has found the Stuart couriers should be employees. The law firm Leigh Day are, in partnership with IWGB, bringing employment claims to court on behalf of Stuart couriers.

"We end up with a situation that some may find contradictory, but just might be the quintessence of 21st century hyper-capitalism," CorporateWatch find. "The French state, via its highly-unionised national post office, owns a tech company run by ex-bankers pushing the limits of gig economy precarious employment."

La Poste and Stuart Delivery is a case study in the neoliberalisation of the state, where the public sector internalises corporate practices in an attempt to boost 'competitiveness'. Whereas La Poste couldn't get away with selling gig employment to its posties - who have fought and won labour rights over decades - as "a responsible social model", it can do it with a subsidiary in the food delivery sector. At least it could, up until this strike.

La Poste's postmen and postwomen should make some noise in defence of their striking Stuart Delivery colleagues across the English Channel, not just out of class solidarity but also to breach a race to the bottom in labour conditions which will eventually reach them if it is not stopped in its tracks. 

Une blessure à l'un est une blessure à tous - an injury to one is an injury to all.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator


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BRAVE NEW EUROPE'S mission is to provide political education which runs counter to neoliberal orthodoxy, and shows alternative paths forward. We don’t believe there is another website in Europe that is playing the same role, so if it was gone tomorrow it would be missed.

But the website is currently running on less than a shoe-string, and the only way it will continue is if readers back the site financially. BRAVE NEW EUROPE is looking to raise 1,500 Euros a month to cover its costs. That’s 150 people giving 10 euros a month, or 300 giving 5 euros a month. It's not a lot. 

If you can help the site out, visit: https://braveneweurope.com/donate.

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • BERLIN RIDERS PROTEST IN SOLIDARITY WITH TURKISH YEMEKSEPETI STRIKE: Riders in Berlin have demonstrated outside the headquarters of Delivery Hero, owner of Turkish food delivery platform Yemeksepeti, in solidarity with their Turkish colleagues. Yemeksepeti riders have been on strike for over a week for a pay rise and the right to unionise, with videos on social media showing hundreds of riders marching and protesting. Demonstrations at the company's Turkish headquarters in Istanbul began 1 February. The solidarity protest was organised by the Lieferando Workers Collective, and riders from the Gorillas Workers Collective also joined. Greek E-Food riders, who were on strike last year, also showed their solidarity with their Turkish colleagues last Sunday [6 February].  
  • DELIVEROO COURIERS STRIKE IN GHENT: Around 30 couriers took strike action on Wednesday [9 February] in the Belgian city of Ghent. The self-employed Deliveroo riders are demanding higher rates of pay and more respect from the company, restaurants and customers. Riders Quadratullah Dawish and Ishanullah Zakkel said that they were previously paid €7 per order but that had now fallen to between €2 and €4. Restaurants do not allow them to wait inside for orders, they are blocked from the app following false customer complaints and when they try to contact Deliveroo about a problem "they can't get a hold of anyone," they explained, adding: "Respect is hard to find in this profession". Read more here
  • DELIVERY HERO SHARE PRICE PLUNGES BY A THIRD: Delivery Hero lost almost a third of its market value on Thursday [10 February], in the company's worst day of trading since it floated on the stock market in 2017. The German-headquartered multinational, which purchased Spanish food delivery platform Glovo at the turn of the year, had disappointed investors when it released it's earnings guidance for the year, which stated that it's gross margin would be -1.0% to -1.2%, worse than the -0.9% previously forecast. The company, which owns a string of food delivery brands internationally, has now lost half of its share value in 2022, and CEO Niklas Oestberg responded to the latest plunge by tweeting that he was "truly sorry for all shareholders" but "we will not change our strategy because of the drop". Read more here
  • DOORDASH TO OFFER BUSINESS LOANS TO RESTAURANTS: DoorDash, America's largest food delivery company which bought Finnish-based Wolt last year, has announced that it is moving into Finance. The company will now offer business loans on its app to restaurants for equipment, rent, hiring and salaries. Repayments will be structured based on the restaurant's revenue. “As we continue to listen to our partners and adapt our services and offerings to meet their needs, one key area where they have asked for support is quick and easy access to capital,” Chief Revenue Officer Tom Pickett stated. It's not clear whether the business loans will also be offered in Europe via Wolt. Read more here.
  • CCOO SIGN AGREEMENT WITH FOOD DELIVERY CO-OP: The Catalan section of the CCOO has signed an "information and advice" agreement with food delivery co-op '2GoDelivery'. The co-op aims to spread its model of food delivery - local, ecological and based on good working conditions - across Catalonia. The CCOO (along with UGT) is one of the two big unions in Spain, and described the agreement with 2GoDelivery as "pioneering", adding that they support "workers who want to organise in the social and solidarity economy to improve their working and living conditions". 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.

In GEP this week

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London couriers: Immigration raid "inextricably linked" to lack of safe waiting area

IWGB couriers question mayor of Hackney’s argument that there was no link between an immigration raid targeting couriers in East London and the couriers’ protest for a safe waiting area which took place just two days previously.

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Barcelona taxistas in "anti-gag" march against Uber

Elité Taxi faces the potential of a crippling fine from the Catalan Competition Authority, after Uber complained of anti-competitive conduct including “acts of boycott, aggressive and denigrating practices”.

From around the web

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Reselling Gig Work is TikTok's newest side hustle

Mia Sato writes in The Verge about 'drop servicing'; middlemen between freelancers on platforms and clients.

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Democratise Big Tech

Interview in Tribune with James Muldoon, author of 'Platform Socialism'.

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Podcast: The poorly paid workers powering automation, w/ Phil Jones

Phil Jones, author of 'Work without the worker', in the latest 'Tech Won't Save Us' podcast. 

Upcoming events

Striking Stuart Delivery workers are calling for a Valentine's Day boycott of Just Eat, Europe's largest food delivery company which sub-contracts work to Stuart Delivery in the UK. The 14 February boycott comes as the strike, the longest running industrial action in the UK's gig economy, enters its third month.

The European Trade Union Institute will host an event on working conditions in the platform economy, showcasing new evidence from survey data, on 17 February online and in-person in Brussels. Click here for full details and to register.

The Platform Economies Research Network will be exploring 'the constitution of algorithms' with sociologist Florian Jaton on the 24th of February. Full details and to register online click 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.

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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