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In Geneva, workers are using their data to take on Uber

Over the past week, Uber drivers have been turning up at the University of Geneva's FaceLab to get an independent analysis of their data. The drivers have all been offered individual compensation packages by Uber for the back-dated pay and expenses they are owed, after a court found in May last year that drivers in Geneva, Switzerland, were employees, not independent contractors.

The drivers have until Tuesday [31 January] to decide whether they want to accept Uber's offer, or take their compensation case to an industrial tribunal. The independent data analysis, led by mathematician Paul-Olivier Dehaye and his 'Digipower Academy' team, is therefore either a basis upon which they can verify Uber's calculations, or evidence they can use in court if they decide to reject Uber's offer. 

"For this month, for example, Uber has calculated that I have travelled 500 kilometres and I 600," Anis, a driver at the FaceLab, tells Le Courrier.

Around 50 drivers have had their data analysed at the FaceLab. The back-dated pay is assessed based on the number of kilometres travelled, which is a lot more complex to assess than it might seem. Indeed, Dehaye says they have had to use two different methods, one which is quick and takes a maximum of two days, and one that takes about a month but provides much more detailed information. The chosen method has depended on at which point over the past 5-6 weeks the drivers have come to the FaceLab, as many at first thought the data which Uber was required to provide as mandated by the state would be sufficient. As it turns out, the Uber provided information has been "mostly useless data," Dehaye tells the Gig Economy Project. Thus, the drivers have been in a race against the clock to get a good data analysis before the 31 January deadline.

Digipower Academy's results have been significantly different from Uber's calculations: roughly 20% more driving on average, according to the Le Courrier report. But it's a mixed picture, with one driver apparently driving five times more than Uber's estimate, while another has driven less than the US ridehail giant calculated. It's likely that at least some of the drivers will take their case to an Industrial Tribunal, which will take years to come to a conclusion but will be very important case law as it would set a precedent, and not just in Switzerland. If independent data analysis can be used to defeat Uber's own calculations in a court and secure higher compensation for drivers, that could inspire Uber drivers and other types of platform workers to pursue litigation on the same basis well beyond Geneva. 

And indeed, this is the ambition of Digipower Academy, Hestia Labs and PersonalData.Io, which are Swiss organisations all working together to empower workers via their data. The Gig Economy Project examined one of their case study's with a Geneva-based Uber driver last year and spoke to's director, Jessica Pidoux, about it in a podcast. Dehaye, who is more well-known for his work in exposing the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is now meeting drivers from across France and in Sweden to train them in how to recover and analyse their own data. He is thinking big about what's possible.

"We could turn surveillance capitalism on its head," he tells Le Courrier. "You, me, we get our data pumped from all sides, but it doesn't translate into financial transactions. We could hope for another dynamic, for example by enriching the thinking of a drivers' cooperative so that they are masters of their work tool".

Getting workers to think about data as "their work tool" is a big challenge in itself, but the starting point for that realisation is to not take what the platforms' tell you about your data for granted, and instead to find ways to access and understand it independently. At least 50 Uber drivers in Geneva have done just that.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

Gig Economy news round-up

  • FRENCH PENSION SYSTEM COULD BE €1 BILLION BETTER OFF IF GIG WORKERS WERE EMPLOYEES: The French newspaper L'Humanite has conducted an analysis of how much the French pension system is missing out on in social security contributions due to gig workers being considered 'micro-entrepreneurs' in the country, finding the state pension pot would be bolstered to the tune of €1.45 billion per year if they were employees. The analysis presumes there are 300,000 platform workers in France that would be considered employees under the terms of the draft EU Platform Work Directive (the European Commission puts the figure for the whole of the EU at 5 million, as of December 2021). L'Humanite's findings come as French President Emmanuel Macron seeks to push through a controversial pension reform, based on the justification that the state pension pot is forecasted to be in a big financial deficit unless there are big changes. Macron has been steadfast in his opposition to employment status for platform workers, and French officials have applied pressure against such a change at the EU level, saying it would undermine their "social dialogue" approach. Read more here. 
  • GLOVO HIT WITH NEW €56.7 MILLION FINE  IN MADRID: Glovo, Spain's largest food delivery platform, is facing another big fine from the Spanish Government's Labour Inspectorate, this time due to its operations in Madrid. The Labour Inspectorate (LI) has found that the Barcelona-headquartered company failed to register 7,022 workers as employees, and consequently is being sanctioned €32.9 million, as well as an additional €19 million in missed social security contributions. On top of this, for the first time LI has cracked down on illegal sub-letting, whereby a rider (usually an undocumented worker) uses someone else's Glovo account, with the account holder taking a large cut of the rider's pay (sometimes as high as 50%). LI has identified 813 riders in this situation and fined Glovo €5.2 million as a result, taking the total fine to €56.7 million. 'El Salto' calculates that the total fine which Glovo, owned by German multi-national Delivery Hero, faces across the country now reaches €205.3 million, and these all relate to inspections prior to the passing of the Rider's Law, with more LI inspections underway since August 2021. Read more here
  • WOLT COURIERS STRIKE IN FINLAND: Wolt riders in Jyväskylä, a Finnish city, went on strike on Friday [27 January] in opposition to changes to their contract imposed just two days earlier. Twenty couriers demonstrated and a sign on the app posted on Twitter indicated that customers weren't able to book on the site for at least part of the day. The riders said that the new conditions do not inform them of the basic payment for each ride nor the mileage compensation. The riders could only accept or reject the new terms. "When I go to work, I don't know how much I'm going to make," Pascal, one of the rider's who joined the demonstration, said. "We don't even know how they determine the amount of payments. It feels like we have been betrayed." He added that the riders tried to give the new model a chance before realising it is no good. "We will continue the strike if they do not contact us and if we cannot reach an agreement," he explained. Wolt is a Finnish-founded delivery company which is now owned by US firm DoorDash, and its couriers work as independent contractors. Joel Järvinen, Wolt country manager, confirmed that the contract had changed on Wednesday but denied that it was worse for couriers, claiming that it provided a more accurate assessment of mileage and after the first few days of its introduction, total wages earned had increased a few per cent. Read more here. 
  • ACADEMICS SUE OXFORD UNIVERSITY OVER "UBERISATION": Two academics are drawing on the 2021 landmark UK Supreme Court ruling, which found that Uber drivers should be considered to be employees, to make the case that they too have been wrongly treated as gig workers. Alice Jolly and Rebecca Abrams had been on a fixed-term "personal services" contract to teach creative writing for the past 15 years, and they did not have access to holiday pay and other workers' rights. Despite the fact the university promised to put them on more appropriate contracts in an April 2022 letter, management ultimately decided not to renew their contracts. "Oxford is one of the worst offenders when it comes to the Uberisation of higher education teaching, with nearly 70% of its staff on precarious contracts," Abrams said. The two academics believe that four years of trade union organising may have contributed to the decision not to renew their contracts. The employment tribunal is expected to take place in the summer. Read more here
  • BIG TAXI STRIKES IN MADRID AND BARCELONA: The two largest cities in the Spanish state, Madrid and Barcelona, have both seen major taxi strikes in the past week, as they fight their respective battles against "Uberisation". In Madrid, 6,000 taxis joined Tuesday's mobilisation, according to the Professional Taxi Federation of Madrid, with another 3,000 unable to enter the demonstration due to lack of space. The taxi drivers want the Community of Madrid's planned regulation, which would see the almost complete liberalisation of the sector, halted. In Barcelona, the fury of the Elité Taxi union, the majority union in the city, was clearly on display on Wednesday, as they joined teachers, doctors, nurses and cleaners in a day of strike action in the city. The drivers blocked one of the many arteries of the Catalan capital, Gran Vía, from 10-2pm. Elité Taxi claim that they have been duped by the Catalan authorities, as the regulation last September was supposed to restrict private hire platforms (VTCs) to operate only via limousines or passenger vans, but instead 1,173 VTC cars have been given temporary one year licenses. They are also demanding that the platforms are regulated as transport companies, not app intermediaries. Read more here
From around the web
Five years of platform labour protest in Germany - a summary

As part of the Leeds Index of Platform Labour Protest's series of country reports, Dennis Neumann looks at platform labour protest in Germany.
The house always wins: The algorithmic gamblification of work

Gig economy expert Veena Dubal, associate professor of Law at U.C. Hastings, finds working via an algorithm feels akin to gambling, and proposes solutions to address this. 
Platform workers need stronger legal protection

Oliver Philipp, Policy Officer in Friedrich Ebert-Stiftung's 'future of work' competence centre, analyses the key issues surrounding the EU Platform Work Directive and what's missing from the current debate.

Upcoming events

- Reshaping Work will launch a report on the future of work at a 31 January online event with a range of speakers including Leïla Chaibi MEP and the European Commission's Ana Carla Periera. For full details and to register, click here

- There will be a protest at the European Parliament calling for MEPs to back a strong Platform Work Directive on 1 February, and the vote of all MEPs will take place on 2 February.

- The European Trade Union Institute is hosting an event on the 'Future of work: working with and through digital technology' on the 14 February. Click here for full details and to register. 

- The Platform Labor Project and the Global Digital Cultures Initiative are holding a hybrid international conference on 'Global Perspectives on platforms, labour and social re-production', at the University of Amsterdam, 27-28 June. Details here

Know of upcoming events we should be highlighting? Let us know at

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 workers' rights in the gig economy.

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 or send a direct message to the Twitter: @project_gig.

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