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Letters (and adverts) from America

Today [5 November] begins 'The Great Delivery'. In one of the platform workers' movement's most creative and international protests to date, eight food delivery couriers from six European countries will cycle 400 kilometres from Paris to Brussels to demand workers' rights in the gig economy.

After meeting with a wide-range of platform workers on their way, from graphic designers to domestic workers, and being joined by ridehail drivers for part of the trip, they will arrive in Brussels on Wednesday [8 November], and the day after will hold a demonstration called “Don’t let Uber make the law” outside the European Commission building. That's the same day as a crucial 'trilogue' meeting between the European Parliament and EU Council to try to thrash out a compromise agreement on the Platform Work Directive.

Piero Valmassoi has interviewed one of The Great Delivery organiser's, Camille Peteers, about how the initiative came about and what they want to achieve for The Gig Economy Project here.

Peteers, who is a key organiser of Brussels' Couriers Collective, said that The Great Delivery is an attempt to maximise "visibility", given their limited means compared to the platform lobby.

"We do not have millions of euros like the platform lobby to make an impact on the EU Directive; instead, we have the people, and we try together to create an alternative and a bottom-up lobby, which can counter the action of the powerful platform lobby," he explained.

The platform lobby is indeed busy spending its big bucks to influence politicians in Brussels. As the European Trade Union Confederation have highlighted this week, Uber splashed the cash on over 100 adverts on Meta social media sites, as well as Ads on EU politics website Politico, all in the last month. Politico reports that Uber's most recent Ad states that “myths fuel misunderstandings” and thus “it’s time to share the facts”.

Uber is less eager to promote the fact that they, along with US competitor Lyft, have agreed to pay out $328 million to drivers in New York for wage theft. They had been imposing onto drivers' a sales tax and other taxes that customers were supposed to pay. The pay out is one of the largest wage theft recoveries in US history, and was brought forward by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. 

"I’ve calculated that Uber and Lyft took at least $25,000 from my pay that they shouldn’t have in the form of sales tax and the Black Car Fund surcharge," Malang Gassama, NYTWA member and former Uber and Lyft driver, said. "With that money I could have helped my wife open the business she dreamed about. I could have bought property and sent more money to my family back home in Africa. I could have kept my kids in the karate lessons they loved that we had to pull them from because we couldn’t afford the expense."

Also in the US this week, Olivier de Schutter, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has released letters he wrote to DoorDash, Amazon, Walmart and the US Government back in August. In his letter to the the Biden administration, Schutter identified "widespread and systematic misclassification of workers as independent contractors" as an important driver of extreme poverty. Writing to DoorDash CEO Tony XuSchutter said his riders regularly earned "below the minimum wage", with one rider living in his car and reliant on government food stamps to survive, something that "is reportedly not an uncommon situation". DoorDash didn't bother to respond to Schutter's letter (either did Walmart or the US Government).

Of course this is in the US, but DoorDash owns European food delivery platform Wolt, and wasted no time in transposing its methods from its Silicon Valley headquarters, something which led to a rash of strikes across Europe in April. And as readers know, the problems of "widespread and systematic misclassification of workers" is no small issue on this side of the Atlantic either.

European legislators have a choice: ensure gig workers get the workers' rights of any other workers, or pass a law which does not put a stop to the steady dismantling of Europe's 'social model' in favour of coming-ever closer to America's ultra 'liberalised' labour market, where you have a tiny chance of getting stinking rich and a really big chance of working all hours of the day and sleeping in your car at night. Which lobby will they listen to: the "bottom-up lobby" of workers who are willing to cycle 400 kilometres to make their point, or the top-down lobby of Silicon Valley, with its slick Instagram Ads? The choice is theirs. 

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

Gig Economy news round-up

  • LIEFERANDO'S MONITORING OF RIDERS MAY NOT BE LEGAL, EX DATA PROTECTION OFFICER SAYS: A former employee at the headquarters of Lieferando (Just Eat) in Germany has shed light on the extent of the food delivery platform's monitoring of its riders. Felix, who has not used his real name for anonymity purposes, said his job at Lieferando's HQ was "to monitor" the food delivery couriers, who are employees in Germany. They would be able to see their exact location, identify any abnormalities and send messages direct to the riders. Felix now considers the monitoring to be "too strong an intervention", as "you can basically say that it is possible to be breathing down the neck of every driver who doesn't do what the company wants." Messages to riders seen by journalists at 'Auf Vollbild' include: "I see that you've been with the customer for some time, do you need support?" Stefan Brink, the Baden-Württemberg state's data protection officer until last year, commented on Felix's evidence, saying that if true, "this is evidence that we are dealing with a completely monitored employment relationship...such complete monitoring and working relationships are not legal." The investigation is part of a documentary looking at working practices at Lieferando and Wolt, where the journalists found illegal sub-contracting practices. Read more here.
  • INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH OF RIDER IN BRUSSELS CLOSED: The Brussels public prosecutor's office has ended its investigation into the death of Sultan Zadran, an Afghan rider who was crushed under a bus on 2 February 2023 while working and died at hospital from his injuries, without bringing forward a prosecution. A report in said that the prosecutors concluded that Zadran, who was a rider for Uber Eats, "found himself in the bus driver's blind spot, not equipped with specific mirrors. The law does not require this equipment, so the driver was unable to avoid the accident." Zadran's death led to protests around rider safety organised by the Brussels' Couriers Collective. Uber Eats claimed Zadran was not working for the platform at the time of the fatal crash, but have refused to provide data to prove it. The decision not to prosecute was criticsed by Zadran's cousin, Haroon Munir Ud Din, who described it as "shocking" as a prosecution against the bus company or Uber Eats "would have made it possible to obtain compensation". Din added that "contrary to what was communicated just after Sultan's death, there was no compensation from the company Uber". Zadran had five children, with his wife expecting a sixth. Camille Peteers from the Brussels' Courier Collective also said he was surprised that the case had been dropped. "We do not dissociate the human drama from its economic explanation," Peteers said. "Sultan would perhaps not have died if he was not paid by the race, if he was not obliged to work dozens and dozens of hours each week to have a decent remuneration." Read more here.
  • FRENCH UNION CLAIMS NEW UBER EATS PAYMENT SYSTEM CUTS PAY BETWEEN 10-40%: Union-Indépendants, a union of self-employed workers, has criticised Uber Eats for introducing a new payment system in the north of France which it claims lowers pay by 10-40%. The new payment system, which led to strikes across northern France last week, is supposed to be rolled-out across the whole country "in coming days," according to the platform. But Union-Indépendents is demanding that the new system is scrapped, stating that it is "unacceptable" and was introduced "without consultation". The union added that it will “be ready to mobilise massively if nothing changes”, while the CGT union congratulated riders in the north of the country for striking and called for “amplifying the movement” across the whole of France. The Silicon Valley company defended the new system, saying it is intended to “value the time spent completing the trip”, with some shorter trips receiving less pay but longer trips receiving more. They added that they will continue to “monitor its impact for delivery people, restaurateurs and customers of the application closely”. The French Government's 'social dialogue' system, including Uber Eats agreed a "minimum hourly income" of €11.75, excluding waiting time, earlier this year, something the new payment system throws into doubt. Read more here.
  • IRISH SUPREME COURT FINDS DOMINO'S COURIERS ARE EMPLOYEES: Couriers for pizza restaurant chain Domino's Pizza are employees, not independent contractors, the Irish Supreme Court has found. The verdict ends a 13-year saga, having first been brought forward by to two couriers in 2010-2011 in respect to their tax obligations. Ireland's tax revenue office, Revenue Commissioners, had won a case in 2018 before it was overturned on appeal. The 7-member Supreme Court came to a unanimous verdict in favour of the tax office, finding that there were “mutual obligations” between worker and company. Domino's exercised "close control" over the couriers' work processes, the judges found. The Supreme Court verdict is likely to have relevance to employment status cases involving food delivery platforms in Ireland. Deliveroo is the largest food delivery platform in Ireland and hires its riders on an independent contractor basis. Read more here.
  • MANCHESTER MAYOR TO MEET FOOD DELIVERY PLATFORMS OVER RIDER SAFETY: Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester in the UK, has said he plans to organise a meeting with the largest food delivery platforms to discuss how to address road safety issues in respect to their riders. Burnham was on a radio phone-in programme when a caller raised the issue of riders who don't have proper equipment and the speed of electric bicycles as a safety issue for the public. Burnham responded that he wanted the city to provide more "segregated space" so that riders had their own paths separate from pedestrians, but that there was a responsibility on the platforms "to sign up to some standards here in relation to the clothing, the basic equipment on the bikes, i.e. lights." He added: "I wouldn’t put the pressure on the individuals, it’s got to be on the companies," saying that he had invitations planned for Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats for a meeting to discuss it. One rider, Shaf Hussain, a member of the IWGB in London, responded to Burnham on X: "If you want delivery couriers to slow down, I strongly suggest forcing gig-giants to pay us more than what we receive for a order that takes 20 minutes start to finish". Read more here.
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In GEP this week

‘The Great Delivery’: Riders to cycle from Paris to Brussels to demand platform workers’ rights

The 400 kilometre ‘Great Delivery’ from Paris to Brussels starts this Sunday [5 November]. Piero Valmassoi, freelance journalist and platform economy expert, spoke to Camille Peteers, rider and spokesperson for the Brussels Couriers’ Collective (Collectif des Coursiers Bruxelles), to find out what it’s all about.
From around the web
Book - Digital Work Platforms at the Interface of Labour Law: Regulating Market Organisers

Bloomsbury publications has made the book of Eva Kocher, professor of Labour Law at the European University Viadrina, on platforms and labour law available for open access.

Documentary - Digital Slaves: Inside Wolt & Lieferando

'Vollbild' takes a look at the reality of food delivery in Germany in this 40-minute documentary (in German). 
Life and death of quick commerce in France: years of non-compliance with the law

In a series of articles in 'Basta!', Emma Bougerol reports on the rise and fall of Q-Commerce in France (in French).

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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