On 25 and 26 October 2018, digital platform food delivery workers from all over Europe will come together for the first time in Brussels, Belgium. Unlike the usual luxury conferences held in the European capital, attendees will have to crowdfund their own tickets. But that won’t stop the 100 or so couriers from meeting up to share their “methods of struggle and define a common strategy for better working conditions” in a bid to combat the “unacceptable” labour practices of online food delivery platforms such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Foodora.
The deliberate misclassification of these platform workers as ‘self-employed’ denies them fundamental workers’ rights, particularly in relation to a minimum wage, working time regulations, collective bargaining rights, insurance and health and safety protections (the latter two points are particularly crucial to food delivery workers who spend most of their working day on motorcycles or bikes). As a result, there have recently been a wave of protests in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain condemning the exploitative nature of this work.
But as well as protesting, deliver workers have also been organising, with a number of bike courier cooperatives recently being established by couriers who once worked for these digital juggernauts. Ex-platform workers in Belgium, France and Spain are turning to democratic business models as a reaction to the precarity of the ‘gig economy’, and in a bid to shape decent work for themselves.
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