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Building movement capacity in Barcelona

An exciting new initiative called the Observatory of Labour, Algorithm and Society (TAS) launched in Barcelona on Thursday [10 November]. The Observatory brings together an interesting mix of organisations which all come at the platform economy from a different angle: the 'taxistas' of the Elité Taxi Barcelona taxi union, the riders' campaign group RidersXDerechos and the Union of Associations of Autonomous Workers and Entrepreneurs (UATAE).

"This new non-profit association was created to defend workers affected by false autonomy and other violations of the platform economy, in fields ranging from passenger and freight transport, through care, to mental health or education...and all those to come," TAS states.

The first action of TAS has been to file a complaint against Spanish food and grocery delivery platform Glovo to the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) for breaching 'the Law on the Defence of Competition'.

“We are opening with a complaint that, for the first time, is not for labour issues, but for unfair competition," Núria Soto of RidersXDerechos said. "They have set up a cartel against which it is impossible to compete.”

The complaint has two parts to it: first, taking Glovo's stance that its riders are self-employed at face-value, the complaint argues that Glovo determines the price and other commercial aspects of delivery, meaning that there is no real competitive market for self-employed riders (hence the label of a "cartel"). Secondly, if Glovo is wrong and the riders are in fact employees, "we have told the CNMC that Glovo would also have violated the Rider Act and competed unfairly. This would have affected the public interest of the whole country: thousands of freelancers, consumers and Glovo's competitors."

If the complaint is upheld, the Catalan-founded delivery company, now owned by German multinational Delivery Hero, could face a fine of up to 10% of global turnover, around €59 million. 

Tito Álvarez, leader of Elité Taxi Barcelona, said that the Glovo complaint would be a first step as the Observatory "will continue with other companies that work with false self-employed workers and violate workers' rights. The objective is that breaking the law is not free for them.” 

Raúl Salinero, president of the UATAE, added that TAS would help "improve the labour inspection strategy to uncover mafia practices of large companies".

Workers and unions need to to build infrastructure that can strengthen their capacities across a range of skill-sets to combat the power of platforms at every turn. Combining forces to do this is a smart approach that can ensure the movement is collectively stronger than the sum of its parts. Once again, Barcelona is lighting a path for the movement against Uberisation around Europe and beyond to follow.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

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Gig Economy news round-up

  • FREE NOW CALLS FOR MORE "FLEXIBILITY" IN SPANISH TAXI SECTOR: Free Now, the German-owned private hire app which operates via taxis in Spain, has said it wants to see "greater flexibility" in the sector in Spain, with no limit to driving hours and variable rates for journeys. Free Now, which is jointly owned by BMW and Daimler, has been operating in Spain for a decade and its Spanish CEO, Isabel García Frontera, told Business Insider Spain that she wants regulatory convergence between the private hire platforms (VTCs) and taxis, as "on the one hand, there is little or no regulation, as in the case of VTCs, and hyper-regulation in the case of taxis". Free Now operates as a private hire platform in other countries and is in the 'Move EU' Brussels lobby alongside Uber and Bolt, but has not set-up its own VTC in Spain and says it plans to continue operating as an app provider for taxis, where it charges 12.5% commission on the price of the trip. It's ambition is to become a "superapp", where consumers can make multi-modal bookings on the one app. Read more here.
  • DELIVERY HERO SHARES RISE AFTER FINANCIAL UPDATE: German multinational Delivery Hero, which owns food delivery titles all over the world including Glovo, FoodPanda and Foodora, saw its best day on financial markets for seven months on Thursday as investors responded positively to the company's third-quarter financial update. Shares were up 15%, though the company is still down over 50% compared to this time last year. The financial update stated that its Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) had risen 12% on last year, and in a conference call Niklas Oestberg said GMV can drive high growth rates for the company for many years to come. The company is still not profitable, but expects to reach "free cash flow break even" by the second quarter of 2023. Oestberg told Reuters that he was planning for Delivery Hero to exit a couple of markets where they didn't believe profitability is achievable. Investors had questioned the decision of the company to purchase Glovo at the turn of the year, with an analysis by HSBC stating that it looked "like a bailout", but the financial update stated that Glovo delivered a 40% year-on-year growth in GMV, ahead of Delivery Hero's average. Read more here.
  • GETIR TAKEOVER OF GORILLAS MOVES CLOSER: Turkish grocery delivery platform Getir is moving closer to completing a takeover of stricken German firm Gorillas, in a cash-and-stock deal that will be worth less than $1 billion. The talks have been ongoing for weeks and are now reaching their final stages, an insider on the deal told BusinessInsider. Gorillas was Europe's faster ever 'Unicorn', after reaching a €1 billion valuation less than a year after it launched in May 2020. It was valued at over €3 billion as late as October last year, but the company has struggled to adapt to a rapidly changing economic climate, where investor cash is no longer in ready-supply and financial sustainability is being prioritised over rapid growth. Gorillas has also had systemic problems internally, including conflict with its grocery delivery couriers, who have organised strikes and a Work's Council in Berlin. Getir, which built up its Turkish business over a number of years before expanding across Europe and to the US when the pandemic struck, raised another $768 million in a funding round in March, with the company now valued at over $11 billion, and set to take over its key European rival. Read more here
  • SUB-CONTRACTOR FIRES RIDERS AFTER UBER EATS REVERTS BACK TO SELF-EMPLOYED MODEL IN SPAIN: 103 riders at sub-contractor Shargo have been issued with redundancy notices, as the decision of Uber Eats to revert back to an independent contractor model has knock-on effects. Uber Eats made the change official in September, after a year and one month of abiding by the Spanish Government Rider's Law, which created a presumption of employment for food delivery couriers. Uber Eats said they would continue to hire riders via sub-contractors as well as on a self-employed basis but the reality is that the re-emergence of the latter is pushing out the former. Hiring riders on a freelance basis means lower costs for delivery companies because they do not have to pay for time that riders are not delivering and can avoid social security contributions, holiday pay and sick leave. Uber did not deny to El Periodico that its strategy is to reduce its link to sub-contractors and hire more and more on a self-employed basis. Uber Eats say they made the move back to a self-employed model because they could not compete with Glovo, which had ignored the Rider Law from the beginning. Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz has said that all companies breaching the Rider Law will fave severe penalties, and Glovo's fines now total over €150 billion, but it takes time for the Labour Inspectorate to conduct investigations and El Periodico understands that there will be no report into Uber Eats until "well into next year". Read more here.
  • INDIAN GOVT SEEKS INFO FROM NETHERLANDS ON UBER BV: Uber is headquartered in the Netherlands under the title Uber BV for tax purposes, and now the Indian Government wants information on the company's financial accounts and transactions with Uber India Systems Pvt Ltd (UISPL), to identify whether the firm should be paying more tax in India. The probe is being run by the income tax department, with one person from the department telling the Indian Times: “While Uber BV is of the view that Uber India is not a dependent entity of Uber BV, certain transactions have been found which show otherwise and the same are under the scanner. If proven that the foreign entity is earning income through businesses here, it’s liable to pay taxes." Uber has been accused of tax fraud in many countries, including Spain, where an investigation is currently ongoing. Read more here.

On GEP this week

Wolt: Trade union activist has account terminated for “taking every opportunity to criticise”

Copenhagen food delivery courier Rasmus Emil Hjorth claims his account was terminated at Wolt for trade union organising.
From around the web
Improving the EU Platform Work Directive proposal: a contribution from emerging research findings

Josie Hooker and Lorenza Antonucci summarise the recent findings of their 'GigWell' research project and apply them to the EU Platform Work Directive proposal, analyse its limitations and how it could be improved.
One year of validity of the Rider Law: why Glovo and Uber Eats continue to hire delivery people as self -employed

The 'Jovenes Juristas' blog takes a look at the legal issues around the Rider Law over a year after it came into force (published in Spanish).
Seeking justice beyond the platform economy: migrant workers navigating precarious lives

In this paper, Tyler Riordan, Richard N.S. Robinson and Gerhard Hoffstaedter look at the intersectional challenges facing migrant food delivery workers in Brisbane, Australia both within and beyond the platform economy.

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