Riders in Barcelona have responded to Spanish food delivery company Glovo’s new competitive pay system for deliveries with four consecutive days of protest, taking their message directly to the company’s headquarters in the city yesterday (16 August).
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Hundreds of riders began protesting on Friday [13 August] at Plaça Catalunya, and yesterday they marched from the square to Glovo’s HQ. There have also been reports of riders self-organising pickets in the city, shutting down Glovo fast food centres and supermarkets.
The Spanish Government’s ‘Riders Law’ came into force last week, and was supposed to ensure all riders for digital labour platforms in the country would be employed. However, Glovo – the food delivery app with the largest market share in Spain – instead only hired 2,000 of its approximately 12,000 riders, and told the rest that they either sign-up to a new self-employed model or they would be disconnected from the app permanently.
The new model is intended to prove that the riders are not employees of Glovo by creating what is effectively an auction for the workers to bid for deliveries on the app. This new measure is called the “multiplier”, where riders can choose between 0.7 and 1.3, and this number is then multiplied by the base rate of the order. The system encourages riders to in effect take a 30% pay cut per delivery in order to secure more orders against other riders seeking work on the app.
The trade union CCOO Catalunya, which already filed a legal action against the company last week for illegal employment practices, has also said that riders in CCOO who have chosen a multiplier of 1.3 have stopped receiving orders altogether, a claim that Glovo has denied.
Carmen Juares, secretary of precarious work at CCOO Catalunya, has described the new system as “a further step towards exploitation and precariousness” which “generates inhuman competition between colleagues”.
For Glovo riders who refused to sign-up to the new autonomous model, they have been disconnected from the app and, in effect, fired. Potentially thousands of riders are in this position, and many are likely to take the company to court for illegal dismissal through their union.
The Gig Economy Project spoke to one such rider, Klemen, a member of Basque union LAB in Pamplona, who is now searching for another job while the union pursues legal action on his behalf.
Klemen said that as part of signing the new terms Glovo demands that the worker renounces “the entire employment relationship we had with the company before”, which in effect would mean giving up his legal claim to have been an employee of the company, a judgement that over 40 court cases, including the Supreme Court, had come to even before the Riders Law was introduced.
LAB have described the firings as “invalid dismissals”, arguing that “it is illegal to cancel a contract for not accepting the new working conditions and for defending the rights that the law gives you.”
“But we will also denounce the clauses that many employees had to sign if they wanted to continue working from [12 August] onwards,” the union added. “We believe that these clauses are completely excessive, and should therefore be considered invalid, as it is a clear constraint to have to sign them in order to continue working. Thus, they had to accept the 30 pages submitted (within a few minutes) and waive the rights provided by law.”
LAB said that they are also in discussions with the campaign group RidersXDerechos “about mobilisations and strikes in the sector due to the unacceptable situation created by the application of the law”.
Labour Inspectorate chief says it will “act forcefully” on false-self employment
Glovo is the only major digital labour platform in Spain to have responded to the new law by seeking to continue to pursue a self-employed model, a position which most independent legal experts believe to be in contradiction with the Law because Glovo remains the owner of the app and thus directs the work.
Adrián Todolí, PhD in Labour Law from the University of Valencia, has stated that: “The delivery drivers can make small or large variations in their day-to-day work, but the system remains subordinate to Glovo. The Supreme Court makes it very clear that it is not relevant whether the worker can choose their schedule or refuse orders. What is relevant is who owns the digital tool”.
The Spanish Government’s Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, has yet to respond to Glovo’s strategy towards her Law directly, but has cited an interview in El Diario with the head of the government’s Labour Inspectorate, Héctor Illueca, who said that the Inspectorate “will set up a specific mechanism and will act forcefully to ensure compliance” with the new Law.
He added: “Laws are there to be complied with, there is no middle ground, and that is precisely the mission of the Labour and Social Security Inspectorate. There can be no doubt, therefore, that we will act with the utmost rigour and forcefulness in the face of situations of fraud that are detected and against those who try to evade a law that is fundamental, I would go so far as to say historic, for our system of labour relations.”
49,755 workers had already been identified as false-self employed by the Labour Inspectorate before the Law came into force.
The conflict between Glovo’s riders and the company is therefore set to be industrial, political and judicial. Glovo broke away from the Spanish Employers Association (CEOE) earlier this year for agreeing to the Riders Law in a negotiated deal with Spanish unions CCOO and UGT. The company has played a key role in supporting the emergence of pro-self employed, anti-trade union associations of riders, as part of a strategy of the company to push back against attempts at government regulation.
For background information concerning the Ill-fated Spanish Riders Law read here