Gig economy strike and the Bologna Riders Union

Riders for a range of food delivery apps in Bologna have taken strike action over poor wages and working conditions, setting up the Bologna Riders' Union.

Submitted by Cipo Fraioli on March 5, 2018

“Today we can make a beautiful observation: all that seemed impossible until a couple of months ago, that is to trigger an efficient struggle in the heart of the gig economy, is coming true, and the results are starting to appear.”

On February 23th, food delivery riders in Bologna working for platforms like Just Eat, Deliveroo, Glovo, Sgnam went on strike for two hours, from 7pm to 9pm on a Friday evening. The strike was organized by the “Riders Union” and had a participation so high that the major platforms were forced to suspend their services, at first on and off and then finally for the entire night shift.

The Bologna experience shows that coming together and organising is the only way to answer to the casualisation of the working conditions and of life itself. In other words, the winning tool is always the same, even in an economy that claims to be “new”!

The contractual power of these platforms actually results from the exclusivity of the employment relationship with each courier (recruitment, the handling of a delivery, payment: they all take place through an app). As such, every worker interacts only with the platform and not with the other riders. In fact, some platforms like Glovo use a ranking system that puts riders in competition with each other.

Basically, this “new economy” is anything but new: it uses piecework to set off a race to the bottom between workers, for which in order to be granted with more deliveries you must be willing to take more chances in traffic, to work in severe weather conditions and every weekend, to accept low wages and no job security.

“The platforms hire more people than are really needed and put them in competition with each other. We know that our work is gauged based on our speed, on the successful outcome of the delivery and on our availability, especially on weekends. If you refuse to work on Saturdays and Sundays, you will hardly be assigned any shifts the week after” (Giorgio, a Just Eat rider).

The platforms defend themselves by claiming that they are part of the so called “gig economy”, namely the economy of short-term jobs, but we all know that deliveries are far from being hobbies or side jobs.
By getting together, like in Bologna, the vicious game controlled by these companies can be shattered and an efficient demand can be pushed forward. The demands of the Riders' Union aim at setting a minimum level of job security such as work contracts that improve on that of mere 'occasional' 'independent' 'collaboration', full accident insurance charged to the company and proper and free equipment, guaranteed working-hours, decent payment without piecework and compensation in case of smog, rain and holiday work.

But this is not all of it, as they declared in a statement published after the strike, “it’s everyone's struggle, for a city model where on demand services don’t jeopardise the rights to a dignified and guaranteed job and to health.”

Check out the Bologna Riders' Union on Facebook.

Translation of an article (in Italian) from the Clash City Workers website.