Gig Economy Project – “My life is worth more than a sandwich”: Strike in Florence after death of a rider

Unions organise 24-hour strike after death of a Glovo rider in Florence, who was automatically fired by the company almost 24 hours after the fatal accident

The Gig Economy Project, led by Ben Wray, was initiated by BRAVE NEW EUROPE enabling us to provide analysis, updates, ideas, and reports from all across Europe on the Gig Economy. If you have information or ideas to share, please contact Ben on

This series of articles concerning the Gig Economy in Europe is made possible thanks to the generous support of theAndrew Wainwright Reform Trust.

FOOD delivery couriers in the Italian city of Florence took 24-hours strike action on Wednesday [5 October] to demand better health & safety conditions, after the tragic death of the Glovo rider Sebastian Galassi, who died after a road accident while working on Saturday evening.

Galassi, 26, was involved in a crash with a Land Rover while travelling on a scooter and died from his injuries in hospital. An investigation is currently taking place into the cause of the accident.

The day after, Galassi’s family read an e-mail which had been sent to his address from Glovo, an automated message almost 24 hours after the fatal accident stating: “We are sorry to have to inform you that your account has been deactivated for non-compliance with the Terms and Conditions”. The family said that they were shocked and angered by the message, but Glovo had contacted them to apologise for it shortly after, saying it was “sent by mistake”, and offering to pay funeral costs.

Four unions, Cgil , Filcams Cgil, Filt Cgil and Nidil Cgil, announced the 24-hour strike following “another unacceptable death, in a sector where safety at work is still too often a right to be conquered, just as decent wages and rights are often a chimera, within a system that pushes productivity to the detriment of safeguards.”

The unions added: “It is time for companies to do their part and contribute to correcting the distortions of the mechanisms of the sector, and even politics must intervene with concrete measures to improve conditions of the riders.”

A demonstration took place at 6pm in Florence’s Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, with riders stacking their delivery bags up in the square in protest (see picture above) with messages including “my life is worth more than a sandwich”, “you can’t die for a delivery” and “enough [with] piece work”. Video footage showed a large group of Deliveroo, Just Eat and Glovo riders gathered in the Piazza.

The unions also called for a consumer boycott on the same day: “We ask them not to order and to participate in the demonstration. We cannot tolerate more deaths for a delivery.”

Photo of Sebastian Galassi, from Facebook

The unions also said that there was a growing number of “serious and fatal accidents” and thus “the situation relating to this profession, on the safety side, is, to say the least, intolerable”.

They called for a “binding application of a national contract and of all descending rules on health and safety at work, including corporate responsibility”, as well as action on “the precariousness of these workers” which, they said, also affects occupational health and safety.

Galassi’s death is by no means the first in this sector, with a rider in the Italian city of Treviso being killed in a road accident just a few weeks ago. 

The unions described rider deaths as a “a massacre that must be stopped and which in our opinion is fuelled by the organisational model adopted by the companies, which pushes workers to run for an extra delivery and a few euros to take home at the end of the evening.”

Ilaria Lani, general secretary of Nidil CGIL in Florence, said that she believed the “cause of the fatal injury remains the piecework wage which is the drive to run more and more in order to raise more euros”, while Giuseppe Martelli, of Filcams CGIL Firenze, said he was “truly shocked” and the strike was “the minimum answer”.

He added: “As a trade unionist I wonder what could be done. For almost five years we have been trapped in a discussion about the form of work that the rider should have, endless discussion with the ministry and with the companies. If we had obtained the recognition of this work as subordinate work it does not mean that we would have avoided this and other deaths, but at least we would have been able to rebuild the chain of responsibilities.”

Martelli added that progress was too slow.

“We have made small steps, but too little. This we must tell ourselves, it is a criticism I make to everyone, first of all to companies, but also to us. You know what happened had already happened and will probably happen again. There is a terrible sense of frustration.”

Stefano Gorelli of Filt Cgil Florence called for extending the collective agreement the unions have with Just Eat, which usually employs its riders, and on a local basis with Runner Pizza, to Glovo and the other platforms. 

While the number of riders dying in work accidents is unknown, a University College London study found:

  • 47% of gig workers said time pressure made them travel over the speed limit
  • 41% said the app had distracted them while they were driving/cycling
  • 75% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, ‘there have been occasions while working where I have had to take action to avoid a crash.’
  • 42% said their vehicle had been damaged in an accident whilst working 
  • 10% said someone had been injured in a road accident while working, 8% themselves and 2% someone else

Messages from across Europe have expressed dismay at Galassi’s death.

Cecilia Lazzaroni from the European Trade Union Confederation, said: “No one should die for a delivery. Riders are pushed to go fast in order to earn little more. While he was losing his life on the workplace, Sebastian was fired with a message upon decision of an algorithm. Everything about this business model is wrong, we need a strong Directive.”

The Collective of Autonomous Delivery Drivers (CLAP) in Paris tweeted: “Let’s not forget that automatic management, via algorithmic programs, are only very human, very cynical management directives, translated into computer code. Things completely condemnable by justice. Condolences and support to his loved ones.”

Glovo, the Spanish headquartered food delivery company which is owned by German multi-national Delivery Hero, put out a message on Sunday stating: “We are deeply heartbroken to know that a courier was the victim of a car accident that took place last night in Florence. We are getting in touch with the family to support them in this difficult moment. The details of the incident are not yet known, however, an investigation is currently underway and we are at the disposal of the competent authorities.”

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