In an important court verdict for gig economy workers, Spain’s Supreme Court has ruled that ‘riders’ at Glovo, the Spanish delivery platform, are employees of the company, not self-employed. The company has responded by implying that they will not immediately comply with the verdict of the court. Writing for The Gig Economy Project, Carlos Rodríguez, community manager at Elite Taxi Association Barcelona, says companies must be forced to abide by the laws.
Carlos Rodriguez Expósito is a specialist in telecommunications. Community Manager of Taxi Project de Élite Barcelona. Collaborates actively with the space No Mas Precariedad, formed by dozens of collectives in struggle and with 404 Comunicación Popular, the media of the social groups.
Translated and edited by BRAVE NEW EUROPE
This series of articles concerning the Gig Economy in the EU was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Lipman-Miliband Trust
NOT even 24 hours had passed before they came to remind us who is in charge. Or rather, those who believe they rule above our laws wanted to show they are still in control.
This is the norm in this system. It is normal because we have allowed it to be.
What am I talking about? On Wednesday, 23 September, the Spanish Supreme Court ruled on the case of the Riders against the platform delivery company, Glovo, agreeing with the workers and recognising them as employees, and clearly stating what we have said for years: they have falsely been designated by the company as self-employed.
The Court found that Glovo is not merely an intermediary, that they set “the essential conditions for the provision of the service” and are “the owner of the essential assets for the performance of the activity”. The Riders “do not have their own, autonomous business organisation”. This was all obvious to anyone who wanted to see it, but finally it has been ruled in the highest court of Spain.
It is important to understand that this ruling means Glovo is in breach of the workers’ statue now, and has been for years. As the riders’ lawyer Luiz Suárez Machota put it, “according the existing law there is already such a labour relationship”. As a result, Glovo now owes about €75 million to the Spanish Government in social security contributions alone.
Glovo (its founder is the son of a former member of the Board of Directors of Spanish news agency RTVE) never made any comment on this matter before the Court ruling. But now they have responded.
“At Glovo we respect the Supreme Court ruling and await the definition of an adequate regulatory framework by the Government and Europe,” the company tweeted on Thursday [24 September].
In short, the Supreme Court’s sentence will be ignored, and the workers’ statute ignored as well, until the government give in to their blackmail.
This corporate non-compliance is really much more serious than it seems, because it does not only affect the Riders, but it is something that occurs in a generalised way. Corporate blackmail of the state continues to work because there is no hard line on business.
It happens with any other activity in which there are interests of the powers-that-be to bend the laws to their will or not comply with judicial rulings of the High Court. This is exactly what we have seen in the case of Uber and AB50 in California, and it is no different here.
It’s a similar logic which allows laws to be adjusted so that Spanish broadband provider Telefónica can raise prices twice a year. Or that leads to public housing being sold to vulture funds and banks. The same banks that we rescued, and that enjoy billions in benefits without having returned the public money we gave them to save them from disaster. There is always a reason why companies are allowed to play by a different set of rules to the people.
So as much as Glovo takes us for idiots, the concept has not been invented by them. In fact, they haven’t invented anything that would justify creating any new legislation. It is not a question of creating something, it is a question of forcing companies to respect the established laws, especially those that they consider do not benefit them. But of course, because we have the state that we have, because the blackmail continues, if the company makes threats, then things change.
If companies think they are above the people and cowardly states that give in to them, people will have to go out and demand that the companies comply with the state.
Because in the end it doesn’t matter whether it is a Rider or any other affected person if we don’t stand up to these abuses. The ones acting with impunity will always have the upper hand.
The people’s representatives dictate laws so that all bodies, including companies, submit to them and comply in the general interest. There is nothing new to look for: compliance is out of respect for everyone.
And if Glovo doesn’t understand this, maybe one day we will have to get up and go to their headquarters to explain it.
The victory of the Riders is the victory of all.