Gig Economy Project – Unions and employers agree ‘Riders Law’ with the Spanish Government

Spain’s ‘Riders Law’ is finally agreed after the ‘social dialogue’ process between unions, employers and the government yielded an agreement, but neither all riders nor all digital platforms are happy with the outcome.

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.

This series of articles concerning the Gig Economy in the EU was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Foundation Menschenwürde und Arbeitswelt  

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Picture by Delegación del Gobierno en Castilla la Mancha’

After months of negotiation a deal has finally been reached over the so-called ‘Riders Law’ in Spain, which will see a new legal presumption that delivery workers on digital platforms are employees, and allow unions access to information about platforms’ algorithms to the extent that they affect workers.

The Spanish Government, the employers’ associations, CEOE and CEPYME, and the big Spanish unions, CCOO and UGT, which collectively make up the ‘social dialogue roundtable’, had been at loggerheads for about five months over the parameters of the Law, which was originally supposed to include all bogus self-employed workers on digital platforms, but has had its scope reduced to just those “who provide paid delivery services”.

A Spanish Government press statement read: “The Ministry has indicated that the agreement will recognise the presumption of employment for workers who provide paid delivery services through companies that manage this work through a digital platform.

In addition, workers’ legal representation will have to be informed of the rules that algorithms and artificial intelligence systems may have an impact on the working conditions governing the platforms, including access to and maintenance of employment and profiling.

The new regulation assumes the doctrine established by the Supreme Court in September, which recognised that the relationship between a delivery driver, popularly known as a ‘rider’, and the company, in that case Glovo, is of an employment nature.”

Labour Minister and Podemos MP Yolanda Díaz tweeted out the news of a breakthrough in the negotiations, stating: “This is a decisive step for their employment and to guarantee information on the impact of algorithms on working conditions”.

However, the agreement was not met with approval by all riders, nor digital platforms. RidersXDerechos, the grassroots union network for delivery workers in Spain, pointed to the fact that the detail of the agreement meant platforms had the opportunity to prove that workers were genuinely self-employed, a concession which the group said would “lead to another endless judicial struggle”. Forty-four court verdicts in Spain have found that riders on digital platforms are workers, not self-employed.

Now, the whole of society has witnessed the level of manipulation and repression they have gone to in organising work to sustain their fraudulent model, so why do we think they will not do the same in the face of the new legislation?” RidersXDerechos, who have called for a strengthening of the Labour Inspectorate’s capacity to investigate digital platforms’ breaching the Workers’ Statute, ask.

The CCOO union insisted that the agreement “will make it possible to establish the employment situation of delivery workers in the field of digital platforms”.

RidersXDerechos, which had been part of discussions with the Labour Ministry over the details of the Riders Law last year, also said that the text was a missed opportunity not to extend the law to all gig workers.

“The fraud of false self-employed goes far beyond our sector,” they stated.

On the other hand, digital platforms have criticised the Spanish employers’ association, CEOE, for signing up to a deal that they are not happy with. The Association of On-Demand Service Platforms (APS), which includes the main delivery platforms in Spain, including Uber Eat, Glovo, Deliveroo, and Stuart, said: “We deeply regret the position that the CEOE has taken at the social dialogue table, in which none of the proposals of the home food delivery sector have been taken into account.”

They criticised the agreement to allow unions to access platforms algorithms, saying that it could damage the development of the digital economy in Spain, and claimed the presumption of employment of delivery workers on digital platforms was “forced labourisation”.

The Law is expected to be passed by Royal Decree, with platforms given three months to comply with the new rules, which includes an addition to the Workers’ Statute, which is legally binding on employers: “presumes included within the scope of this law the activity of persons who provide paid services consisting of the delivery or distribution of any consumer product or merchandise, by employers who exercise business powers of organisation, management and control directly, indirectly or implicitly, by means of algorithmic management of the service or working conditions, through a digital platform”.

The Labour Inspectorate has already been operating on the basis that digital platforms hiring riders on a false-self employed basis are in violation of the Workers’ Statute, but this addition seeks to strengthen that position.

The lengthy negotiations were complicated by divisions within the Spanish coalition government over the legislation, notably between Díaz and economy minister Nadia Calviño of the social democratic PSOE, who was opposed to extending the legislation beyond delivery platforms, a position which was aligned with CEOE.

The limiting of the Riders Law to only Riders is at odds with the EU Commission’s draft consultation document for regulation of work on digital platforms, which seeks to include all those who work via digital platforms in its scope. Specific proposals are expected to be published before the end of the year for an EU Directive, which would be binding on all EU nation-states.

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