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Gig Economy review of 2022

This will be the final Gig Economy Project newsletter of this year so we thought we'd have a little review of 2022. 

This was the year of the Uber Files, a huge leak which provided hard evidence of what many of us had known for a long time: that Uber is, in the words of Nairi Hourdajian, the former head of Uber’s global communications, "just fucking illegal”. The Files showed that Uber bulldozed there way into countries, ignoring the laws, and used their lobbying power to bring obsequious politicians on board. Those politicians included French President Emmanuel Macron and former European Commission vice-president Neelie Kreos, the latter now facing an EU investigation for breaching lobbying rules to protect Uber. The whistleblower, former European chief lobbyist Mark MacGann, spoke at the European Parliament hearing to say that the extent of the company's lobbying in Brussels is much greater than the official records suggest and that of course Uber drivers should really be employees of the company. While the US ridehail giant has comfortably survived the scandal in the short-term, the long-run impact should be that it will be more difficult for politicians to get away with treating the architects of the gig economy as legitimate and credible.

This was also the year when reality hit for many digital labour platforms, which had been surfing a wave of cheap money, allowing them to ignore business fundamentals, and have now crashed into the cold hard reality of rising interest rates and disappearing venture capital investors. The change in the economic and financial climate exposed the 'growth-before-profits' models of many private hire and food/grocery delivery platforms, with stock values tumbling across the board and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi telling staff that "we need to show them the money". Just as the year was about to come to an end, Gorillas - Europe's fastest ever 'Unicorn' in 2021 and one of the companies least prepared for the change in economic headwinds - was finally sold to Getir for a fraction of the value it was worth just over 12 months ago. 

For riders across Europe, the struggles of their bosses filtered down to them in the form of job cuts and de-activations. Just Eat, which employs most of its riders via sub-contractors, slashed pay and cut jobs across the board, while many of the grocery delivery platforms scaled back or shut down warehouses altogether. For French undocumented riders, Uber Eats took advantage of the economic downturn to kick them off the app in a mass deactivation thought to have affected over 2,000 riders in Paris alone. Those riders have since been regularly protesting through the Parisian streets demanding "regularisation" so that they have the right to work. And for riders who haven't felt the pain of employment or pay cuts, just coping in the cost-of-living crisis is an increasingly difficult battle in its own right. There have been a rash of rider and private hire platform strikes across the continent in the second half of 2022, primarily over pay. 

Whereas the gig economy changes at a rapid pace, the politics of platform work is more slow moving. The European Parliament and the Council of the EU have had more than 12 months to deliberate on the European Commission's draft Platform Work Directive, and have still not come to a conclusive verdict. The Parliament has got a bit further, with its Employment Committee back a Directive which would strengthen the presumption of employment and algorithmic rights for workers, and it is expected that MEPs will back this version at the start of next year. The Council failed to come to any agreement under the French and Czech presidencies in 2022, and it will be up to the Swedish to try to break the deadlock from January to June - and if they fail, then the Spanish. Even after that, an agreement between the Council and the Parliament will need to be found. There's no guarantees the Platform Work Directive will become legislation in 2023.

We've also seen company executives given suspended prison sentences for fake-self employment in France, record company fines for fake-self employment in Spain, platforms moving from employing riders back to self-employed models to compete, and the resounding defeat of the private hire platforms in Barcelona, where they have been effectively kicked-out by the Catalan Parliament and a public taxi app established in its place.

That's just a flavour of the gig economy in 2022. We hope you have found our coverage over the past year useful. We hope to continue with this work for the whole of 2023 as well, but right now we only have funding for another six months. If you have the financial means to support Brave New Europe, the site which hosts the Gig Economy Project, with its emergency funding appeal, that would be greatly appreciated. Happy holidays and here's to more victories for gig workers in 2023.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

It is in your hands

BRAVE NEW EUROPE has financially supported and hosted the Gig Economy Project wholeheartedly. Now both are in danger of having to close down. This will be decided by those of you who can afford to financially support us. In such a situation even small donations are important. It is in your hands.

Gig Economy news round-up

  • EU COMMISSIONER SAYS COUNCIL SHOULD GO BACK TO ORIGINAL PLATFORM WORK DIRECTIVE TEXT: The EU Commissioner for jobs & social rights, Nicolas Schmit, has told the Council of the EU that it should revert back to the original Platform Work text drafted by the Commission in order to break the deadlock between member-states. The original text was led by Schmit and published in December 2021. The Czech Presidency of the Council had sought to weaken the provisions around presumption of employment, including through including derogations to the criteria for triggering the presumption of employment, whereby if one of the criteria was met solely based on compliance with national law, then it would not count towards triggering the presumption of employment, and that individual member-states can choose not to comply with the presumption of employment if is obvious that it will be rebutted. The Czechs also wanted to limit the algorithmic management part of the Directive to no more than current GDPR rights. Schmit told Euractiv that he objected to these parts of the Czech proposal particularly strongly and they were thought to have been watered down in an attempt to strike a deal, but none was forthcoming as a 'blocking minority' of member-states still exists. He said that the Commission's proposal was "very balanced" and urged the Council, which now comes under the leadership of Sweden which voted for the Czech proposal, to return to that starting point. Read more here
  • GLOVO and UGT UNION ANNOUNCE ROUNDTABLE TO BUILD "DIALOGUE": The Spanish trade union UGT has faced criticism from campaigners for riders' rights after it announced jointly with Spanish food delivery platform Glovo a round table to develop a "dialogue" to explore working together. Glovo, Spain's largest food delivery platform owned by German multinational Delivery Hero, has refused to comply with the Spanish Government's 'Rider's Law', which was introduced last August establishing a presumption of employment in the food delivery sector, and the company has faced multiple fines for fake self-employment. In announcing the round table, the UGT said that it was committed to “dialogue as the best tool to respond to the challenges posed by the current reality. We celebrate being able to start this debate forum because we both have a common goal: to advance in rights. It is an exploratory environment to seek solutions and improvements among all." Taking aim at the UGT, campaign group 'RidersXDerechos' said: "What the hell is this "analysis and prospective"? The solution is very simple: that they comply with the Workers' Statute, that they register the delivery drivers with Social Security and comply with the collective agreement." The anarcho-syndicalist union CGT riders also criticised the announcement, saying it "legitimises false-self employment". Glovo co-founder Sacha Michaud said of the round table: "We want to move forward so that all the people we work with have the possibility of being represented and that they can convey their concerns to us in order to provide solutions and improvements”. Read more here
  • CCOO AND UGT REACH AGREEMENT WITH UBER EATS OVER THE DISCONNECTION OF 4,000 RIDERS: The two big Spanish unions, CCOO and UGT, have reached an agreement with Uber Eats which will avoid the two sides going to court over the deactivation of 4,000 riders in August 2021 on the day the Riders' Law came into force. The riders were told that they could no longer work as freelancers and had to find work with Uber Eats' subcontractors, a move which the unions said was an "illegal transfer" of workers. The unions had filed a lawsuit but it will now be shelved after the agreement, which sees Uber Eats acknowledge that this was a collective dismissal of workers and pay compensation amounting to 45 days of paid work for every year they were a rider with Uber Eats. The unions said it was a "historic agreement" because "for the first time, a collective dismissal of delivery people is recognised in court and guarantees the collection of compensation for each of the people affected, in amounts that improve those established by law". However, the agreement faced criticism from campaign group RidersXDerechos, which said in a Tweet thread that the agreement was a "misery" because "actual working hours are not respected, only the average turnover of the last year is taken into account". Read more here.
  • UBER STRIKES TAKE PLACE IN CITIES ACROSS ENGLAND: The ADCU union organised one-day strikes of Uber drivers in cities across England this week demanding higher pay from the US ridehail giant. Strikes and protests took place in Birmingham, Leicester, Bristol and Manchester. In the North-West English city, drivers switched on their Bolt apps but refused to drive for Uber, with one driver, Omar, telling the Manchester Evening News that he made £31 from a ten and a half hour shift after costs, £2.95 an hour. “It’s really affecting our lives and what we are doing at the moment,” Omar said. "We are standing up for ourselves.” The ADCU called for the public not to break "the digital picket line". Yaseen Aslam, ADCU President, told drivers in Birmingham at the picket line outside Uber's office that they are demanding an end to 'dynamic pricing', which makes it impossible for drivers to work out why they are being paid what they are being paid, and the creation of a proper process to handle unfair dismissals from the app. "That's all we're asking for, basic stuff, minimum protection," he said. Read more here.
  • BERLIN 'PAYDAY' FUND ESTABLISHED TO HELP RIDERS FACING WAGE ARREARS: A group of rider-organisers in Berlin on Works Councils and in trade unions are establishing a 'PayDay' fund to support workers involved in conflict with food and grocery delivery companies with the effects of wage theft and wage arrears, which they say is a common and systematic occurrence. One rider, Dorian R, said "If we were paid for everything that we are legally entitled to, we would have 30 percent more money in our pockets." The campaigners believe wage robbery is used strategically by platforms to disrupt riders who are involved in organising efforts or to paralyse labour disputes by heaping the pressure on already precarious workers. The 'PayDay' will seek to compensate workers who are facing wage arrears, they are asking for donations for the fund and are limiting payouts currently to those earning under €1,800 euros gross a month in Berlin. They hope PayDay branches will be established in other cities. Read more here
In freezing cold and icy London, riders keep working despite the risks

Gig Economy Project co-ordinator Ben Wray reports from London where freezing temperatures, snow and ice have made being a food delivery courier an even more dangerous job.
From around the web
Migrant Gig Workers Organize in New York City: Deliveristas Unidos & the Fight to Regulate Food Delivery Apps

Martha Guerrero speaks to migrants in New York who are organising in the food delivery sector in IEHS Online.
Europe is recognising platform employees as real workers: Interview with Leïla Chaibi

France Insoumise MEP Leïla Chaibi speaks about the EU Platform Work Directive to Jacobin. 
Gig workers are racking up legal victories across the world, a new report shows

This report on 'FastCompany' is based on a new report by the International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW), which you can read in full here.

Upcoming events

- FairWork's Serbia ratings will be released at a livestreamed event on December 20, 12 noon (Belgrade time). To register, click here

-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 2023. 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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