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Listening to many western political leaders right now, you'ld be forgiven for believing that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally sets the prices in the supermarkets and at the petrol stations. US President Joe Biden, for instance, rails against "Putin's price hike". Inflation had already hit its highest level since 1982 in January, before the Ukraine war began. More importantly, prices are set by companies (not Putin) at a level which seeks to maximise profitability.

This is where class conflict comes in, because while CEOs want to raise prices and keep wages low to deal with the inflationary pressure of rising costs, workers want their wages to increase so they can afford to buy the higher priced goods. Biden and others are telling workers that they unfortunately have to suffer 'because Putin', while doing nothing to rein in profits. But not not only will many workers refuse to accept the logic of Biden's argument, many literally can't afford to accept it - they have to fight for higher wages just to get by.

The Gig Economy Project spoke to striking Belfast food delivery couriers this week. One Just Eat courier, Barbara (name changed), said the company cut her wages by 25%, and she had resorted to working 15-17 hour days sometimes to earn enough to pay the bills.

“My son never gets to see me,” she said. “We can’t continue to live like this.”

The Belfast strike is just one of many springing up across Europe. Stuart Delivery couriers stepped up their strike action, which started early December, against a pay cut by occupying a Greggs HQ in Newcastle. Berlin Lieferando couriers, who are employed, took industrial action this week to demand the company increases the fuel mileage allowance because they are "currently paying for the petrol out of our own pockets". A major protest set for this Sunday by Spanish transport workers, including private hire drivers, was cancelled after the government agreed a support package worth over €1 billion to end the truck drivers' strike, which has caused widespread disruption to supply chains, though it's not clear all the drivers accept the offer. French Uber drivers are set to protest across the country on Monday and Tuesday.

Gig couriers and private hire drivers want the platforms to increase prices further to compensate for surging fuel costs, but the platforms know that the higher they raise the prices, the more likely they are to lose out to market competitors, or see consumers decide not to bother anymore with food delivery or booking an Uber. But the platforms can't sell anything without their workers, who may walk away from the sector or strike if they can't make enough money from the work to pay the bills and put food on the table. One US survey has found half of all private drivers have either cut their hours or quite altogether due to rising fuel prices. Something has to give. 


Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • "I HOPE NOT...": EU COMMISSIONER RESPONDS TO REPORTS FRANCE IS BLOCKING PLATFORM WORK REFORM: European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, gave what appeared to be a thinly-veiled jibe at French President Emmanuel Macron, after being asked a question about whether France was "dragging its feet" on the European Commission's Directive on platform work. Macron is the current president of the EU Council, and the Council's support for the EU Commission's proposal, which has been led by Schmit, is necessary for it to be passed into law. 'Agence Europe' asked the commissioner: "On the directive governing digital platforms, some say that France has little appetite to really take this issue head on. Is France dragging its feet?" The Commissioner simply replied: "I hope not...". Responding, Leïla Chaibi MEP, who had led the campaign for a strong directive in the European Parliament, described Schmit's response as "evocative", and added: "Macron tries to take advantage of the French Presidency of the EU Council to scuttle the progress of the Directive. We won't let him."
  • FOOTBALL STAR KYLIAN MBAPPÉ REFUSES TO HAVE PHOTO TAKEN WITH UBER EATS: One of the world's best footballers, France and PSG star Kylian Mbappé, refused to participate in a French national team photo which included Volkswagen, Orange, Coca-Cola and food delivery platform Uber Eats as the sponsors. The player's lawyers later claimed his absence wasn't a rebellion, but it is known that Mbappé is frustrated with his image being used for products he doesn't like. Uber Eats is the main sponsor of the top league in French football, Ligue 1, which is now officially called Ligue 1 Uber Eats. Commenting on Mbappé's photo absence, Gary Tribou, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Strasbourg, said it was a "fundamental challenge to the soccer business". Leïla Chaibi MEP, a key campaign for platform workers' rights, also commented, saying Mbappé had done "more in one morning for the rights of platform workers than Macron in five years". Read more here.
  • LONDON UBER LICENSE RENEWAL "A MISSED OPPORTUNITY": The ADCU union, which organises private hire drivers in the UK, has criticised London Mayor Sadiq Khan for renewing Uber's license to operate in London as a "fit and proper" operator despite the company refusing to comply with all aspects of the UK Supreme Court's ruling last year. The Supreme Court found that Uber drivers were employees for the company and should be paid from the moment they log-on until they log-out. Uber agreed to hire drivers in the UK as employees, but the US ridehail giant only pays them for the time when they pick up a ride. ADCU President Yaseen Aslam, and lead claimant in the Supreme Court case against Uber, said Khan's decision was "yet another tragically missed opportunity for Sadiq Khan to make worker rights a condition of license for Uber". Read more here.
  • SPANISH GOVERNMENT AGREES SUPPORT PACKAGE WITH TRANSPORT WORKERS: The Spanish Government has announced a package of financial support over €1 billion for self-employed transport workers who are struggling with the rising price of fuel. The proposal, combining direct aid with fuel subsidies, comes as a strike by Spanish truck drivers, which began 14 March, has severely disrupted food and other supply chains in the country, leaving some supermarkets struggling for products. The direct aid of €450 million will be distributed between truck drivers (€1,250 each), bus drivers (€950 each), van drivers (€500 each) and light vehicles (taxis, private hire drivers) get €300 each. The fuel subsidy of 20 cents euro per litre will be met partially by the government (15p) and partially by oil companies. The package also contains plans for a long-term reform of the transportation sector which will be introduced in a Bill before July and will include the reduction of sub-contracting in the sector. The CNTC union, which represents the majority of the truck drivers, has agreed to the package, but said that it does "does not cover even 50% of the monthly losses". Read more.
  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE BACKS PLATFORM WORK DIRECTIVE: The European Parliament's Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held a plenary session this week which backed the European Commission's platform work directive proposals, published in December. The EESC found that it was "necessary to ensure equal treatment between 'traditional' companies and those using digital means based on the functions of algorithmic management" and that it "supports the aim of the European Commission's legislative proposal to address the very diverse regulations in the Member States on the legal classification of the employment relationship". Both the European Parliament and the EU Council need to endorse the Commission's proposal before it can be passed into law in all member-states. 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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    "The fuel price is up, the delivery price is down": Belfast food delivery couriers strike


    Belfast couriers from Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat join forces in a Northern Irish first to demand a minimum income guarantee.

    From around the web

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    Turning FairBnB co-op into a multi-stakeholder cooperative


    A report by Vera Vidal of the Institute for Digital Co-operative Economy at the Open University of Catalonia.

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    Private hire drivers should not be forced to work in fear


    Mara Fazecas, the fiancee of Gabriel Bringye, a private hire driver for Bolt in London who was killed after being attacked at work last year, writes in Al Jazeera and says there can be no real justice in the gig economy until driver safety is taken seriously.

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    Sky high gas prices push Europe's gig workers to strike


    Morgan Meaker writes in Wired on gig economy strikes in Belfast and Berlin. 

    Upcoming events

    The INV union of drivers in France is organising protests in cities across the country on 28-29 March with a series of demands to tackle the crisis private hire drivers for Uber and other companies are facing. Click here for full details


    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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