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A few weeks ago we reported on the dynamics of Spain's food delivery market: Glovo, the largest food delivery platform in Spain, was growing its market share at the expense of Uber Eats, because whereas the former was continuing to ignore the Spanish Government's 'Rider's Law', the latter was hiring riders via sub-contractors, which meant assuming additional labour costs per rider, having fewer riders on the streets, longer waiting times for deliveries and, ultimately, higher prices in an attempt to maintain revenues. 

Now, Uber Eats have made their unhappiness about the situation public, writing an open letter to Minister of Labour Yolanda Diaz claiming that they cannot find enough food delivery couriers because they would all rather work on a self-employed basis for Glovo. The letter goes on to say that the government has "failed to enforce the Rider's Law" and as a result "the disadvantaged situation of all the companies that do comply with it gets worse every day". 

"Faced with this situation, we all ask ourselves the same question: Should we follow Glovo's example and work with freelancers to be able to compete on equal terms?"

There is plenty of criticisms that can and should be made of the Uber Eats' letter. First, it's highly questionable that they have stuck rigidly to the Rider's Law, and are in fact facing legal action of their own from the CCOO union for an illegal transfer of workers to sub-contractors on the day the Law came into force. Secondly, there's no evidence to back up the argument that they can't find riders because they prefer to be self-employed. The greater supply of Glovo riders is likely to be because many of them do not have citizenship, and thus cannot apply for a job as an employee but can sub-rent a Glovo account. Furthermore, if Uber Eats wanted to raise wages and improve conditions, they would surely have a rush of new riders willing to work for them.

Despite all of that, Uber Eats does have a point. Glovo is illegitimately stealing a march on its competitors. The Ministry of Labour responded to the open letter by telling El Diario that the Labour Inspectorate "is already acting" to enforce the Rider's Law, with "action being taken to verify that the digital distribution platforms engage in practices that fraudulently try to evade the application of the rule". But the Labour Inspectorate is moving much slower than the reality on-the-ground of the Spanish food delivery market, and even when the company is eventually hit with fines, will the punishment be severe enough to claw back the gains it has made from evading the law? And if not, what's stopping Uber Eats and co from making good on their threat to "follow Glovo's example"? The Rider's Law is in danger of unravelling if the government cannot quickly prove it is capable of enforcing it.

This is a battle between the power of democratically elected government versus corporate power. We should all fear living in a world where companies like Glovo can dictate the rules.


Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

Newsletter sign-up error

The Gig Economy Project's newsletter sign-up list had been mistakenly mixed with Brave New Europe's newsletter list for the first two months of the year. The problem is now fixed. If you intended to sign-up to the Brave New Europe list and have found yourself on the GEP list, you can now sign-up to the correct list here, or alternatively just e-mail [email protected] and we will fix it for you. Apologies for the inconvenience.

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • UBER FARES TO RISE 20% IN LONDON: US ridehail giant Uber will raise its fare prices by 20% on Monday [14 March] in the British capital, in response to surging fuel costs and to adapt to a High Court ruling last month. The ruling found Uber was a contractor for private hire drivers, meaning they have to pay VAT costs. And with fuel prices hitting all-time highs, the company has also announced a fuel surcharge in the US and Canada for both its food delivery wing, Uber Eats, and Uber. It's not clear as yet whether the surcharge will also be introduced in Europe. Read more here.  
  • DELIVEROO CRIMINAL TRIAL IN FRANCE BEGINS: A trial of UK-based food delivery platform Deliveroo and three of its former French leaders began in Paris on Tuesday [8 March]. The criminal trial is the first of its kind in France, and is based on evidence gathered by the central office for the fight against illegal work from 2015-2017. Deliveroo is accused of "hidden work", suspected of employing 2000 "independent" riders who should have been waged employees due to a subordination relationship between the platform and the riders. The trial will run until 16 March. Read more here.
  • OPEN LETTER TO FRANCE'S PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES TO OPPOSE THE "UBERISATION" OF WORK: An open letter signed by academics, politicians and activists has called on France's presidential candidates to take a clear stance against the "uberisation" of work and to "put this subject at the heart of the debate!" The letter, organised by French Communist Party senator Pascal Savoldelli, comes one month before the first round of France's presidential election, which will be held on 10 April. Signatories include France Insoumise MEP Leïla Chaibi, the CLAP workers' collective, and Kévin Poperl, economist and co-founder of CoopCycle. Read more here.
  • 'UNITED FREELANCERS' CRITICISE BELGIAN PLATFORM WORK LAW: The 'United Freelancers' section of the CSC union in Belgium has criticised the Belgian Government's plans for a platform work law as an "empty shell". The Belgian Government announced the plans for the law in early February stating that it would be fully in line with the EU's platform work directive proposals announced in December. However, the draft text has only just been made available, and United Freelancers, which organises gig workers, found that the law does not reverse the burden of proof of employment status from workers to platforms, as is proposed in the EU Commission's Directive. They also criticised the Belgian Government's text for not extending the law on work accidents to platform workers. Read more here
  • JUST EAT WORKING WITH 'GORILLAS' IN SPAIN ON GROCERY DELIVERY: Europe's largest food delivery platform, Just Eat Takeaway, is teaming up with Berlin-based firm Gorillas to launch its grocery delivery offer in Spain. Just Eat say they have agreed a deal with Gorillas for Just Eat grocery delivery to be available via 14 'dark stores' in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante. They will also offer delivery from municipal markets. It is the first time the Dutch platform has worked with Gorillas, which launched in 2020 into the competitive ultra-fast grocery delivery market and has spread rapidly across Europe and into the US. Read more here.
  • GORILLAS WORKERS COLLECTIVE SAY COMPANY IS PLANNING A NEW MASS FIRING OF WORKERS: The Gorillas Workers Collective in Berlin has announced via social media that the company is preparing to fire workers on mass for the second time. The tweet stated that "Gorillas prepares to mass fire workers out of probation including 3 Workers' Council members", going on to say that 87 workers were going to be let go by the end of March. The ultra-fast grocery delivery firm caused controversy in Germany in October last year after it sacked hundreds of riders and 'pickers' following a wave of wildcat strikes led by the Gorillas Workers Collective in June and July. Gorillas' workers set-up a works' council in December, which gives them official representation within the company, after a court found that the management could not continue to block elections to the works' council. 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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Deliveroo: Platform Labour

Thomas Klikauer and Meg Young on platform capitalism and worker resistance.

From around the web

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In Ukraine, online gig workers keep coding through the war

Aarian Marshall writes in 'Wired' on cloudwork at war time.

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Why is France's state-owned postal service exploiting couriers in England?

Liam Kennedy writes in 'Jacobin' on the role of La Poste in exploiting striking Stuart Delivery riders. 

Upcoming events

On 17 March, the Open Society European Policy Institute and European Digital Rights (EDRi) will host an event titled 'Discrimination and surveillance: Can the EU Artificial Intelligence Act fix injustice?' For details and to register, click here.

The European Trade Union Institute and the Institute for Labour Law at the KU Leuven are hosting an online conference on collective bargaining and algorithmic management on the 24 March, click here for full details and to register.

The Wage Indicator Foundation will hold its latest even on the gig economy on the issue of pay. 'Gig Work: grip on pay' will be held on 25 March. For full details and to register, 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.

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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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