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Food delivery platforms losing court cases over workers' rights has become so common place now that it can often pass by with little comment at all. But Deliveroo France's guilty verdict, announced by the President of the Paris Tribunal Court on Tuesday [19 April], is different. Why? Because this time it was a criminal, not civil, case.

Generally speaking, no one goes to jail for losing a civil court case. In a criminal case, the state is pursuing a case because they believe a person or people have committed a crime. A guilty verdict therefore very much can lead to individuals going to jail. In this case, two former managing directors were sentenced to 12-month suspended prison-sentence and a €30,000 fine each, and cannot run a company for five years. A thplaird executive was deemed to be an accomplice, given a four-month sentence and fined €10,000. 

This raises the stakes substantially, because what these three former Deliveroo execs were found guilty of was basically the same thing that Glovo in Spain has lost well over 50 civil court cases over: hiring workers on a self-employed basis when they should have been hired as employees. Glovo has taken a financial hit from losing all these trials, but not one that has been significant enough to motivate the firm to change it's approach and employ its riders, and that's despite the passing of the Rider's Law last year which legislated specifically for this purpose. If criminal trials, rather than civil trials, became the norm across Europe, and company executives were themselves facing consequences for alleged criminality, it's not far fetched to think that the senior management of these platforms might re-think their current attitude to the employment status of riders.

The really curious thing about the Deliveroo verdict is that one arm of the state appears to be working at odds with the other. Whereas French President Emmanuel Macron has consistently sought to avoid employment status for gig workers, and is reported to be using his position as the current chair of the EU Council to be pushing back against such a reform for the whole of the EU, the French judicial system clearly has a different idea. That may be why Deliveroo France responded to the verdict by describing it as "incomprehensible": the UK-based firm must have thought having a loyal ally in the Élysée Palace was enough to protect them.

French voters go to the polls today for the final round of the presidential election. Whatever the result, questions about the Uberisation of work in France are not going away. 

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • RIDERS ACCUSED OF HARASSING TRADE UNION ACTIVIST ACQUITTED: Five riders accused of harassing a colleague, Fernando García, who is a member of the UGT trade union, were acquitted by a Madrid Court, due to lack of evidence that it was they who sent threatening messages. Messages directed to García included "what you have to do is cut off his legs" and "let's see if I'm going to go to your house". The messages were sent around the time of the passing of the Rider's Law in August last year, which made employment the default status for food delivery workers in Spain. Tension between riders associated with unions, who were in favour of employment status, and those associated with the 'Si, Soy Autonomo' movement, which was opposed to the Rider's Law, led to some of those on the trade union side facing verbal and physical abuse. The Gig Economy Project discussed this in a podcast last year. García said he was very disappointed with the acquittal, stating that he had "a feeling of impunity". Read more here. 
  • UBER TO REDRAW UK PENSION SCHEME AFTER UNION LEGAL THREAT: US ridehail giant Uber has said it will change its UK pension scheme just months after its launch due to a threat from the ADCU union to take the company to court because the scheme is not Sharia-compliant, and thus discriminates against Uber's Muslim-majority workforce. The new pension scheme was part of Uber's employment offer to its drivers following the UK Supreme Court verdict last year which found that drivers were employees, in a case which was also pursued by the ADCU union. Uber hired 'NOW Pensions' to develop the scheme, and the company said following ADCU's threat that it would launch a sharia-compliant scheme "later this spring". Uber stated: “The vast majority of drivers participate in our current pension scheme and we are working with NOW Pensions as they create a sharia-compliant fund which will be available to drivers soon.” Read more here.
  • CUSTOMER REQUEST FOR RIDER TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH GOES VIRAL: A digital request from a customer ordering through the Glovo food delivery platform in Spain stating: "Please, have the delivery man leave the order at the door and take the garbage with him when he leaves" has went viral on social media, with Tweeters criticising both the customer and the platform. The person who posted the image of the customer's message, CCOO union activist Paco Moreno, commented that: "Glovo consents and feeds [the customer], maintaining a customer scoring system”. Riders receive a rating from the customer on their performance, meaning it's possible that if the rider in question did not take out the garbage for the customer, they could have been down-rated. Read more here.
  • MILAN COURT FINDS DELIVEROO RIDER MUST BE EMPLOYED: The Court of Milan ruled on Wednesday [20 April] that a Deliveroo rider must be employed by the British food delivery platform on the terms of the National Collective Agreement for the Tertiary sector. The court found that the labour of the rider, who is a member of the Uiltucs union, was "completely organised from the outside with a direct impact on the methods of execution, times and places". Mario Grasso from the Uiltucs said that the verdict was "an extra tool, a sentence that recognises what we have been affirming for some time: this is a subordinate job, riders have rights and must have the protections that they are entitled to." Michele Tamburrelli, general secretary of UILTuCS Lombardia, said the verdict "bodes well for the possibility of further protecting and representing the workers in this sector". Read more here.
  • DELIVEROO ACCUSED OF HYPOCRISY OVER FOODBANK PARTNERSHIP: UK-headquartered food delivery platform Deliveroo has been accused of “sanitising its increasingly discredited public image” by teaming up with the UK's biggest national foodbank charity. The Amazon-backed firm announced the partnership earlier this week, which will include allowing customers to donate to the charity via Deliveroo's app and delivering two million meals to the hungry. However, an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism last year found that some riders, which work via Deliveroo's app on a self-employed basis, earn as little as £2 an hour. Ahmed Uhuru Hafezi from the Couriers Branch of the IWGB responded to news of the partnership by telling Deliveroo that "your couriers have to use food banks". He added: “Take a visit to food banks across London and you will see couriers filling their delivery bags with emergency food supplies for their own families". Hafezi called on Deliveroo to pay its riders "enough to cover their expenses and feed their families, rather than relying on the good will of food banks". Read more here.
  • UNION DENOUNCES SPANISH FOOD DELIVERY PLATFORMS AND THEIR SUBCONTRACTORS: CGT Riders, a grassroots union based in Barcelona, has denounced Uber Eats, Stuart Delivery and their subcontractors 'Delivers', 'Pick and Place' and 'Adecco' to Spain's Labour Inspectorate, accusing them of breaching employment laws. Both Uber Eats and Stuart Delivery employ riders in Spain, usually via sub-contractors. CGT Riders claim that the employers do not provide them with proper work material, do not provide holiday time/pay, have not updated the salary payments to the 2022 minimum wage level and do not respect the right to 30 minute breaks between shifts. Uber Eats has also been denounced by the CCOO union to the Labour Inspectorate for what the union believes was an illegal transfer of workers from the company to sub-contractors, on the day the Rider's Law came into force in August last year. The Labour Inspectorate is pursuing cases all over Spain in relation to food delivery platform's accused of not complying with the Rider's Law. 

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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Uber for therapy

Colette Shade writes in Tribune about the platform 'BetterHelp', an Uber for therapy.

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A silicon valley lawmaker wants to protect workers from employer spying

Lil Kalish looks at the new workplace tech accountability bill in California.

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Working for clickfarm platforms in Brazil - ep 1

DigiLabour, a research laboratory on platform work linked to the University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos, has produced a series of videos on click farms in Brazil.

Upcoming events

- Worker Info Exchange and the ADCU union are back in the Amsterdam Court on 18 May in their case against Uber and Ola Cabs over algorithmic transparency and protection from robo-firings. See here for more information.

- The 2022 Re-Shaping Work Conference will be held in Amsterdam on the 13-14 October. The call for papers is open until 1 June. Read more here.

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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