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It's all happening in the US. Amazon workers at a warehouse in New York voted to form a union, a first in American history and organised by a grassroots union. 

Also in The Big Apple, the NY Taxi Commission has done a deal with the devil, putting the yellow cabs onto Uber's app. Uber gets more supply at a time it desperately needs drivers, and the taxis get access to Uber's customers - but at what price? In San Francisco, where a similar deal is in the making, taxi workers are resisting, saying joining Uber's app will mean their income will fall, while at the same time pricing out traditional customers because of Uber's surge-pricing at peak times.

Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft drivers in the US are quitting in droves, as the surge in fuel costs makes being a 'self-employed' ridehail driver a very expensive business. A survey by TechCrunch found 43% of Uber and Lyft drivers are driving less or have quit altogether, and that's despite a fuel surcharge - an additional fee of $0.45-$.055 per driver per ride - being brought in. One Lyft driver described the surcharge as "an insult to the drivers". Just 28% of drivers said they were satisfied with the surcharge.

In Washington, one union leader is pushing back hard against cosy deal's with Uber and co. Sean O'Brien was sworn in as the Teamsters' new international president last week and immediately moved to have a Bill that had been backed by the local union and Uber and Lyft squashed. The Bill, which has already passed the state's House and Senate, would see private hire drivers remain as independent contractors in return for paid sick leave and a minimum pay rate from pick-up to drop-off. 

“Everybody wants to build their membership, everybody wants to represent workers, but this can’t be a money-grabbing association,” said O’Brien, who believes the drivers should have the full rights of employees, and is lobbying Democratic governor Jay Inslee not to sign the Bill.

“We are open to having relationships with anyone,” O’Brien added, “but we’ve got to make sure they’re going to be beneficial to the workers and not be some type of charade to skirt their obligations under the employee relationship.”

This flurry of activity should have us on the other side of the Atlantic sitting up and taking notice. Uber is no longer the great disruptor seeking to smash all before it. It's doing deals with taxi associations and unions because it is now the dominant player in the sector but its model is seriously threatened by surging fuel prices, campaigns for employment status and a persistent lack of profitability, and it thinks taxi associations and unions could now be allies rather than adversaries in coping with those threats. O'Brien has decided he doesn't want the Teamsters' to be any part of it - what will Europe's taxi and union leaders decide?

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • EX-GLOVO STAFF COMPLAIN OF 'HIRE & FIRE CULTURE': Former staff of Spanish food delivery platform Glovo in Italy have spoken of the companies poor treatment of staff. One former employee complained that junior staff "are victimised and bullied", while "senior friends of top management face little to no accountability". Another said that working at the company was "mentally so stressful" and that it had given her persistent nightmares. The Sifted piece also reported former senior figures saying the company was consistently making mistakes due to a culture of slapdash decision-making and a scattergun approach to innovation, which "when it goes south and does not have the same results as expected, then they have to let people go. And that’s where this ‘hire and fire’ comes from". In grocery delivery, Glovo is losing out to competitors like Getir and Gorillas in many countries, the piece also found. Oscar Pierre, Glovo's CEO, responded to the article by describing it as "very poor journalism" and saying the claims made from former staff are "gossips". Read more here.
  • PRIVATE HIRE DRIVERS IN PARIS DEMAND NEGOTIATIONS WITH GOVT: Around 150 drivers in the INV union protested in Paris on Monday [28 March], demanding direct negotiations with the government over pay rates. Ben Ali Brahim, the INV's General Secretary, said that many drivers are leaving the industry because the rising cost of fuel is making it unaffordable, and that even government fuel subsidies would not be sufficient since "the platforms will lower the prices to attract customers". Ali Brahim said the union wanted "a minimum rate, hourly and per kilometre, negotiated between the government and the independents". Brahim also challenged France's presidential candidates to take a position on the issue of platform work. The first round of France's presidential election is next Sunday [10 April]. Read more here.
  • DELIVEROO CEO PAY RISES TO £600,000: Will Shu, CEO of UK-based food delivery platform Deliveroo, has seen his basic pay rise by 16% this year to £600,000. Shu also earned £5.2 million last year from a share payout and is set to receive another £5 million in shares in 2023. The chief financial officer, Adam Miller, also earned £500,000 in basic pay, a 14% increase. The pay rises were criticised by IWGB union President and former food delivery courier Alex Marshall at a time of a rising cost of living which is leaving many couriers "paying for the price of the pandemic while bosses line their pockets". Read more here.
  • UBER DRIVERS IN BRISTOL PROTEST OVER LOW FARES: There were delays and traffic jams in the English city of Bristol on Wednesday [30 March] as Uber drivers staged a protest against low fares and for driver safety. The 'go-slow' protest was organised by the ADCU union, and one of the protesting drivers told 'Bristol Live' that "drivers are driving around for less than 50p a mile most of the times". He added that Uber "keep lying to us" over the commission the company takes, claiming that drivers were regularly earning just £6 on a £10 fare. Uber responded to the protest by saying that they "are always looking at how we can help drivers reduce their costs and maximise their earnings". Read more here.
  • BOLT'S SPANISH ARRIVAL SHAKES UP PRIVATE HIRE MARKET: Estonian ridehail platform Bolt has only been in Spain for just over half a year, but it has already gained a market share of 12.4%, according to a new analysis of the Spanish private hire market. Users of Uber in Spain has fallen 15%, while Spanish platform Cabify has seen a 18.9% drop. The 'SmartMe Analytics' analysis predict that Bolt will soon surpass German firm FreeNow to be the third biggest player in the Spanish market. 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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    "This strike is about survival": UK Stuart Delivery couriers revolt reaches 100th day


    Stuart Delivery couriers in eight towns and cities in the north of England remain on strike after their pay was slashed in December.

    From around the web

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    No toothless tiger


    A chapter of Nina Scholz' book 'What to do against the power of corporations?' in 'Junge Welt' looks at the establishment of works' councils and attempts at union busting in the gig economy (in German).

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    Is there an alternative to algorithmic capitalism?


    James Muldoon, author of 'Platform Socialism', reviews Justin Joque's new book 'Revolutionary Mathematics: AI, statistics and the logic of capitalism'.

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    Asia's largest food delivery platform FoodPanda stumbles in Pakistan, too


    Zuha Siddiqui writes in 'Rest of World' on a major strike of FoodPanda couriers in Karachi, Pakistan in March. 

    Upcoming events

    The democratising work webinar series organised by the Global Forum on Democratising Work begins on Monday 4 April with a webinar on 'Labour Precarity in the Netherlands', speakers: Ronald Dekker (TNO), Valeria Pulignano (KU Leuven), Valeria Piro (University of Milano). For full details and to register click here.


    A seminar will be held on Tuesday 5 April on the regulation of work on digital platforms, organised by the workers' rights and social security department at the Catholic University of Chile. Click here for full details and to register.


    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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