Brave New Europe has always considered the Gig Economy one of the most important and contentious economic developments of our time. Unfortunately it is largely ignored in mainstream media, except as a burgeoning business sector, and by much of academia. But what about the workers in the Gig Economy, the newest model of capitalist exploitation – bike couriers, home-based tele-workers, seasonal fruit and vegetable-pickers, call-centre workers and many others with no job protection?
Ben Wray is leading this project for BRAVE NEW EUROPE, enabling us to provide analysis, updates, ideas, and reports from all across Europe on the Gig Economy. We are keen to find out about and report on these struggles – if you know of or are involved in one in Europe, please get in touch. We are also publishing content from researchers, campaigners, and others who have an interesting perspective to offer on Gig Economy workers in Europe.
This page will be regularly updated with new content, and if you would like to get in touch you can do so by contacting the co-ordinator of the project, Ben Wray (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To support us in our goal of “Giving a voice to the voiceless” the Stiftung Menschenwürde und Arbeitswelt is generously providing us with a bridge funding until we can find a long term financial basis. Thus we can continue to develop an information network on how Gig Economy workers are organising themselves, supporting them in creating a public exposure that up to now has been denied.
Bolt drivers demand worker status, an end to unfair dismissals and an extra £2 per mile in 24 hour strike
Robert Ovetz – Prop 22 and the choice between advocacy and lobbying or organising for control over work
Robert Ovetz explores Prop 22 in California and recent attempts to strike deals between gig companies and unions in New York and Seattle, arguing that strategies which prioritise lobbying & advocacy over the self-activity and organisation of gig workers are doomed to fail over the long-term.
Gig Economy Project – Discrimination of cloudworkers in the global south is rife on digital platforms, report finds
Online gig workers in the global south receive lower pay and less work due to discrimination from clients largely based in the global north, with no legal recourse, a new study of Cloudwork platforms has found.
Gig Economy Project – When platforms co-opt gig workers to their cause: Understanding Spain’s anti-labour movement of riders
Podcast with José Domingo Roselló of the the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT)
Gig Economy Project – Britain: Grassroots unions question the value for drivers in GMB’s formal recognition agreement with Uber
The UK union GMB has signed a formal recognition agreement with ride-hail giant Uber, in what is a global first for the company, but grassroots unions which represent Uber drivers have questioned what exactly the union has won for the workers.
A study by the Fair Work Foundation which rates platform giants against a check-list of fair work standards has found that Ola, Bolt and Amazon Flex met none of the fair work requirements, achieving a score of zero.
Uber’s complaint to the competition authority of intimidation and collective boycott comes after two months of failing to re-launch the ride-hail app in the Catalan capital
Gig Economy Project – Union anger as Riders Law finally decreed in Spain but implementation is delayed for 3 months
The Riders Law in Spain is a European first, but unions are unhappy that delays to its implementation is giving food delivery platforms “plenty of time to ‘disconnect’ everyone they want
A burgeoning literature is seeking to understand 21st century capitalism from the perspective of work, the working class and class struggle. This ‘workerism’ tradition, historically associated with Italian marxism in the 1960s, starts from the workplace to identify where workers have power and how they can maximise it.
Despite the global recession and pandemic, there are signs that a workers’ movement in the digital platform economy is developing. To mark International Workers’ Day, Ben Wray looks at key developments in platform worker struggles over the past year and what lessons they hold.
Even before the crisis of the pandemic, food delivery companies have seen their profits skyrocket while their so-called “self-employed” workers suffer rights violations and were banned from unionising.
Gig Economy Project co-ordinator Ben Wray finds evidence across Europe that sub-contracting is digital platforms’ plan B to continue reaping the rewards of low-paid, precarious labour.
Gig Economy Project – In a landmark case, an Amsterdam court overturns the automated firing of 6 Uber drivers
A court in Amsterdam has ordered Uber, the ride-hail platform, to re-instate six drivers and pay compensation, on the basis that they were wrongly fired because the decision was made automatically by the company’s algorithm.
Gig Economy Project – UK Deliveroo riders strike to intensify pressure on company following its IPO disaster
Deliveroo riders across the UK began striking 7 April, demanding a real living wage, safety protections and workers’ rights.
Gig Economy Project – Deliveroo’s £1 billion IPO downgrade: gig worker exploitation puts off investors
This is the first time that workers have influenced the IPO of a platform economy company, also thanks to the Uber judgement at the British Supreme Court.
Alex Foti reports from Italy’s riders strike on Friday [March 26], which saw delivery workers refuse to respond to the app across the country in a major show of union power.
Following the taxi protest on Thursday [18 March] against Uber’s return to Barcelona (read more here), it has been revealed that the global ride-hail platform has not been operating in the city since it officially re-launched its app in the Catalan capital on Tuesday.
Tras la protesta de los taxistas el jueves [18 de marzo] contra el regreso de Uber a Barcelona (leer más aquí), se ha revelado que la plataforma global de viajes compartidos no ha operado en la ciudad desde que relanzó oficialmente su aplicación en la capital catalana el martes.
Uber is back in the Catalan capital after being pushed out in 2019, but Barcelona’s taxi leader says “there will be war and it will not stop” if they don’t leave again.
Uber change in policy is a first and could have international shock waves, but the company still fell short of full compliance with the UK Supreme Court ruling last month.
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.
Deliveroo’s pandemic profiteering has set the company up well for its IPO, which will make the CEO Will Shu hundreds of millions – but the problem of the company’s hyper-exploited gig workers is not going away.
On Friday the 18th of February, the UK Supreme Court announced its judgement on the case Uber V Aslam, rejecting Uber’s appeal and declaring that two of its drivers, Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar must be classified as workers. This was the end of 5 years of legal challenges, with Uber taking their appeal to the highest court in the country.
In the UK, Uber is acting like it is business as usual following its Supreme Court defeat last week but is under increasing pressure to comply, while in Italy a public prosecutor has hit gig companies with a huge €700 million fine.
Uber is doing some massive lobbying in Brussels (they spent 200 million dollars to block the labour law in California declaring Uber drivers employees) and they have loads of money for the EU Snouts in the Troughs in Brussels. App workers may have limited funds, but they have the will to win this fight.
The legal verdicts against Uber and for workers are mounting up across Europe. Its business model may not be able to survive this.
A video from labournet.tv of a protest in Berlin of Lieferando and Wolt riders on 11 February, 2021. The protest included members of FAU Berlin and ‘RidersUnite!
Lis Gaibar examines a new study on the health risks of being a rider, and whether the planned ‘Rider Law’ of the Spanish Government will improve the situation.
Gig Economy Project – Podcast: ‘The difference between a slave and a worker’ – interview with Leïla Chaibi MEP
The France Insoumise MEP, who sits on the European Parliament’s ‘committee on employment and social affairs’, published a draft proposal for a Directive on the regulation of platform workers across Europe on behalf of The Left Group in November.
The EU is moving towards a regulation of the Gig Economy. Lobbyists in Brussels are spending fast and heavy. What is on the table up to now?
The Gig Economy Project spoke to Alex Marshall, new President of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and former delivery courier, in the first Gig Economy Project podcast.
Report on latest of 41 court verdicts against false self-employment of riders in Spain, and update on divisions over the Spanish Government’s so-called ‘Riders Law’.
A Bologna court has ruled that a ranking-based algorithm used by food delivery platform Deliveroo is in breach of labour rights, in a verdict that has been hailed as an “epoch-making turning point” by an Italian union leader.
As 2020 draws to a close, Brave New Europe has received €2,000 in bridge-funding from the German Foundation Menschenwürde und Arbeitswelt (Human dignity and the world of work), which allows us to continue the work of The Gig Economy Project until Spring 2021.
The Workers’ Observatory – Does traditional Union Organising Work in Food Delivery?: The McAlevey Method on Wheels
The wheel does not have to be constantly re-invented, although there is always room for technical improvements.
Inspired by the 19th century observatory that sits atop a hill in Scotland’s capital city (pictured below), workers in Edinburgh have launched a Workers Observatory so they can undertake their own inquiries into data-driven platforms and digital work regimes in a city that is determined to become the ‘Data Capital of Europe’.
Annemarie Kern and Valentin Niebler: The YouTubers Union – A Novel Case of Platform Worker Organising
In September 2020, Annemarie Kern, a student assistant at Humboldt University Berlin, and Valentin Niebler, a sociologist at Leuphana University in Lüneburg, published “Organising YouTube. A novel case of platform worker organising” for the Friedrich Ebert-Stiftung Institute. Writing for the Gig Economy Project, Kern and Niebler summarise the findings of their research.
Back to the reality of EU neo-liberalism, whose motto is “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. The regional government in Madrid is only implementing EU policy.
Volviendo a la realidad del neoliberalismo de la UE, cuyo lema es “Nunca dejes que una buena crisis se desperdicie”. El gobierno regional de Madrid sólo está aplicando la política de la UE
Proposition 22 in California makes Trump seem an avid democrat. This was plutocracy in action.
ADCU – App Drivers & Couriers Union files ground-breaking legal challenge against Uber’s dismissal of drivers by algorithm in the UK and Portugal
In a landmark legal case, former Uber drivers asks courts in the Netherlands to over-rule the algorithm that fired them
Ali Brahim’s union has made a name for itself through direct action mobilisations blocking Uber logistic centres across France, and organising drivers to deactivate from the app on mass.
Le syndicat français qui bloque les centres logistiques de l’Uber – Entretien avec Ben Ali Brahim de l’INV
Le syndicat d’Ali Brahim s’est fait connaître par des mobilisations d’action directe bloquant les centres logistiques d’Uber dans toute la France, et organisant les chauffeurs pour qu’ils désactivent en masse l’application.
Report on the key take-aways from a recent international conference on decent work in the platform economy.
The pioneering Danish collective agreement on platform-based domestic workers has been vitiated by a misguided ruling by its competition authority.
“Care” may be the word of 2020, alongside “coronavirus” and “lockdown”.
App-based delivery workers from 12 countries around the world announced a global day of action for 8 October, and explained how they were suffering in the context of the pandemic.
Gig Economy: Uber and Lyft are spending $181 Million to push through a Referendum in which their Survival is at Stake
Two Gig Economy platforms are preparing a referendum in California aimed at defending their status as non-employers
Com a resposta a la llei californiana AB5 que reconeix la relació laboral dels treballadors d’Uber, les companyies de plataformes han engegat una ILP per tombar-la. Es dirimeix en referèndum les condicions laborals de desenes de milers de treballadors
Uber y Lyft gastan 181 millones de dólares para impulsar un referéndum en el que se juegan su supervivencia
Las empresas de plataforma dedicadas al transporte basado en apps presentaron una iniciativa legislativa referendaria que tendrá lugar en paralelo al voto a las elecciones a la presidencia de los EE UU del día 3 de noviembre de 2020
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.
The Gig Economy Project analyses ground-breaking research on the impact of lockdown on the financial security, health and mental well-being of gig economy workers in France.
Bama Athreya – Advancing Decent Work in the Platform Economy – 23 September International Conference
Bama Athreya, Economic Inequality Fellow at the Open Society Foundations and producer of The Gig Podcast, introduces an international conference to be held on Wednesday 23 September which will look at international strategies for decent work in the platform economy. The Gig Economy Project will be participating in the event.
This newest labour law may well once again be blocked by the Spanish Social Democrats.
Journalist Laura Olías tells the stories of Javier, Carolina and Luis, platform workers who have suffered different types of exploitation at the hands of Facebook, Amazon and Uber respectively.
WORK is one of the areas of life that has been most obviously and profoundly re-shaped by the pandemic. We have experienced an unprecedented global experiment in working from home, one that employers are treating as a “living laboratory for a permanent – and highly profitable – no-touch future,” as Naomi Klein has argued.
Cycle courier cooperatives are turning technology on the gig economy giants.
The changing face of the gig economy
The Spanish right-wing Popular Party (PP), notorious for its corruption, now runs the regional and city council of Madrid. They are using their new-found power to liberalise the taxi sector in the Spanish capital. Unsurprisingly, the links between senior figures of the PP in Madrid and digital platforms Uber and Cabify run deep, Carlos Rodríguez of Taxi Project 2.0 explains.
El Partido Popular, conocido por su corrupción, ahora dirige los gobiernos regional y municipal en Madrid. Este está utilizando su nuevo poder para liberalizar el sector del taxi en la capital española. Como era de esperar, los vínculos entre las figuras principales del PP en Madrid y las plataformas digitales Uber y Cabify son profundas, explica Carlos Rodríguez de Taxi Project 2.0.
A ‘Complete Reversal’: European Parliament Recommends Equal Rights for Platform Workers in New EU Employment Guidelines
The EU Parliament’s new recommendations on employment protection guidelines are a “complete reversal” of the positions “that have dominated the European institutions for years”, according to its architect. However, the vote is not binding on European institutions. The Gig Economy Project takes a look at the resolution and what it could mean.
Although the Spanish Social Democrats have reneged on their promise to revoke neo-liberal labour laws introduced by the Right, workers and unions in the Basque Country organise to increase workers’ rights.
Following the first Global Workers’ Conference on 24-25 June of the Transnational Workers’ Network (TWN), Carlos Rodríguez Expósito of Taxi Project 2.0 gives his view of the strategy that can be pursued by the network in moving forward.
Después de la primera Conferencia de Trabajadores Globales del 24-25 de junio de la Red de Trabajadores Transnacionales (TWN), Carlos Rodríguez Expósito del Proyecto Taxi 2.0 da su opinión sobre la estrategia que puede seguir la red para avanzar.
The platform giants are organised transnationally, so platform workers need to organise at that level too. The Gig Economy Project previews an important new initiative to co-ordinate platform workers internationally.
The Gig Economy is the exploitation system of the future. That is why corporations are fighting unionisation so vehemently, so that they do not ruin the business model.
The Gig Economy Project looks at how work is changing in Europe three months into the Covid-19 crisis, finding that the combination of corporate lobbyists exploiting the crisis and the growing dominance of the digital sector is accelerating pre-Covid trends towards precariousness.
Carlos Rodríguez Expósito – A Taxi Driver, a Corrupt Spanish Political Class, and International Finance
To understand Coronavirus crisis in Spain, it is essential to understand its history of endemic corruption, in this case of public services, that is driven by politicians guided by Spain’s large financial interests (banks and vulture funds).
The Taxi Project 2.0 has announced a court action today, making a claim to the Spanish Public Prosecutor office that Uber had defrauded the Treasury, in the latest offensive by the Taxi workers’ movement in Spain against the platform giant. The Gig Economy Project reports.
Corona Crisis: ‘We have to fight for our lives while we’re still trying to save other people’s lives’: Interview with UK medical courier Alex Marshall
There’s few more daunting jobs in a pandemic than to be a medical courier. Handling Coronavirus specimens while riding a bike around central London is not fun and games. Medical couriers at The Doctors Laboratory [TDL], a fast growing private healthcare firm in the UK, have been experiencing this on a daily basis for two months, but now they have a new threat to deal with.
The company is looking to make ten of its medical couriers redundant, a cut that is strongly suspected to be motivated by a desire to break the trade union. Alex Marshall, chair of the Industrial Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) Couriers & Logistics Branch, is one of those couriers that has been at the centre of union organising at TDL, and is up for the chop under the muted plans. The IWGB have called a strike ballot among TDL members over the threat to jobs.
The Gig Economy Project spoke to Marshall about TDL, the planned strike and what it has been like to work as a medical courier in London during the Covid-19 crisis.
Alex Foti on May Days past and present.
French trade unions have won a legal action against Amazon over health & safety at work during Covid-19. Ben Wray spoke to Stéphane Enjalran, National Secretary of the Solidaires trade union, which led the court action, about the significance of the court ruling.
In early 2014 taxi drivers in Barcelona rebelled against the unbridled growth of Uber, the online ride service. In six years they have turned that fight into a general offensive against “platform capitalism” in the EU. Alberto Alvarez explains the vehemence.
A principios de 2014, nace en Barcelona un movimiento de taxistas inconformistas. Cansados de que las administraciones y sindicatos del taxi no hicieran nada, y poco a poco se fueron sumando más taxistas.
Ekona Collective, Taxi Project 2.0 – Platforms, Workers’ Organisation, and Covid-19: lessons from Spain
The dynamics of platform economies, how workers are seeking to organise in this new form of capitalist organisation, and how they have responded to the Covid-19 crisis
Until the lockdown shut most of us behind our four walls, a new distinct feature of the European urban environment had become apparent to all. The gig economy couriers. Riders buzzing round street corners with Deliveroo back-packs on and Uber bumper stickers on cars, they have become an emblem of an age of precarious, app-driven work.