Gig Economy Project – Barcelona: Glovo ‘dark supermarket’ riders begin unprecedented strike action

First official strike in the app-based food delivery sector in Spain begins, with five Glovo ‘dark supermarkets’ in Barcelona said to be “paralysed” by the action

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This series of articles concerning the Gig Economy in the EU is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust

Photo by CCOO

Riders who work at food delivery company Glovo’s ‘dark supermarkets’ have taken strike action in Barcelona today [27 August], the first of nine days of strikes with the aim of securing a direct employment relationship with the company and improved terms and conditions.

The strike, led by Spanish union CCOO, is thought to be the first official strike of app-based food delivery workers in Spain. It thus represents a landmark in a country which has seen intense unofficial disputes between riders and platforms, including in Barcelona just two weeks ago when the ‘dark supermarket’ riders joined false-self employed Glovo riders in taking direct action.

Around 300 Glovo riders, who are employed via a temporary employment agency, are thought to be involved in today’s action, and Carmen Juares, General Secretary for New Labour Realities at CCOO Catalunya, said that the strike had 100% support among the workforce and had “paralysed” operations at Glovo’s five ‘dark supermarkets’ in the city.

The ‘Glovo markets’ are food processing sites which have sprung up across Europe in recent years as a way for food delivery platforms to cut out restaurants and supermarkets by directly preparing food for their customers. But the riders who work for them – and all parties accept these workers are employees – are unable to access toilets and washrooms in the warehouses, one of a series of complaints which has led to today’s action.

The demands of the riders include:

  • An end to sub-contracting, replaced by an indefinite contract with Glovo.

  • An ordinary hourly salary of €12.22, an increase in the value of hours worked on public holidays and Sundays by 0.75%, and a supplement for distribution on rainy days and night work of 25%.

  • A paid rest period of five minutes per hour, and that this can be enjoyed in groups up to a maximum of 20 minutes per four hours worked.

  • The right to enjoy legally established holidays guaranteed.

  • Full access to the warehouses including toilets, wash rooms, water fountains, dining rooms and electrical charging points.

  • Access to the records of the algorithm to have knowledge of tips, real kilometres driven by the vehicle, working hours and more.

The riders are hired by an employment agency, JT Hiring, but CCOO believe this to be legally challengeable, since all the work they do is through Glovo.

“They are all hired by temporary agencies or work and service contracts when it is evident that they are permanent distributors who do structural work for the company,” Juares has said.

El Diario has reported that the workers were sent a direct hiring proposal by Glovo shortly after the announcement of the strike, but the company did not want to enter into conditions or dates during the mediation meetings between the company and the union. The union has interpreted the move as an attempt at demobilisation.

Juares commented that Glovo entered the mediation meeting with “no willingness to open avenues for negotiation”.

The company has yet to comment directly on the strike, but told Sifted: “We have always been committed to engaging in an open dialogue with our couriers, whether it is to discuss better conditions and benefits or improving the experience offered through our platform.”

The strike comes after Glovo, the company with the largest market share of food delivery platforms operating in Spain, responded to the enforcement of the Riders Law on 12 August by hiring just 20% of its 12,000 strong workforce, while establishing new terms & conditions for the rest of its autonomous riders which made their circumstances even more precarious. CCOO has already denounced the company to the Labour Inspectorate for illegal employment practices.

The new conditions included creating what is effectively an auction for the workers to bid for deliveries on the app, whereby they were incentivised to lower the amount they would be paid by up to 30% in order to secure bids against other riders. The new system led to a backlash among riders, especially in Barcelona, where Glovo is headquartered, with a wave of protests and pickets which eventually led the company to augment its new model, removing the option to lower the value of orders by 30%.

The Riders Law does not affect the ‘dark supermarket’ riders directly, as the company already accepts that they are employees, but the sub-contracting of their employment is becoming a trend for riders in all platforms, with Uber Eats responding to the Riders Law by establishing a sub-contracted system of employment. CCOO believe this to be an illegal transfer of workers.

The events in the Catalan capital are being closely watched by riders across Spain, with riders in the campaign group ‘RidersXDerechos’ in Pamplona, in the Basque Navarre region, tweeting in response to the strike: “We are on our feet, defending decent work. Thank you Catalonia for being the spearhead. We are essential, if we stop, there are no deals. We continue!”

Radical left party CUP, which has nine seats in the Catalan Parliament, also tweeted in support of the strike: “For decent working conditions! Against 21st century slavery and precariousness!”

En Comu Podem, the Catalan wing of Unidas Podemos, the leftist party which is part of the coalition Spanish Government, also said: “New technologies cannot be an excuse to return to the operating conditions of past centuries. Today has begun the Glovo strike of 9 days to demand better working conditions and for companies to comply with the law. All the support, comrades!”

The Gig Economy Project will be carrying an interview with Carmen Juares, CCOO Catalunya’s head of New Labour realities, this weekend.

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