A new initiative aims to show that an alternative path for food delivery is possible, that the exploitation of workers is not the only way, that nickel-and-diming is not the necessary condition to stay on the market, but that instead, it’s possible to pay riders a dignified wage and at the same time create a home delivery service that would be able to keep an entire community together.
For now, it is simply called Consegne Etiche (“Ethical Deliveries”), and it will soon be launched in Bologna. This is a project that the city’s bicycle delivery workers are working on, who have been marching in the streets of the city for some time to demand their rights. Riders Union Bologna even went to talk with Luigi Di Maio when the Five Star leader was still promising a radical solution for the problem of overexploitation in the world of deliveries. Furthermore, Bologna is a city where a supportive and cooperative network was formed over time, which began to think about the future during the lockdown.
This led to the birth of a collaborative enterprise that gradually became a real project, ready to go. It is set to launch in September. Those behind “Ethical Deliveries” include, obviously, the delivery workers—for instance, the members of the Dynamo co-op, with the experience of their own initiative that they began a few months ago in the city; but they also include shopkeepers, the co-op world of Bologna and the local institutions: the City of Bologna itself has had a coordinating role, with its Urban Innovation Foundation, and has drawn up, since 2018, a “Charter of Riders’ Rights” that has been a trailblazer in Italy.
“Ethical Deliveries aims to weave relationships between citizens, fight against isolation, and more generally work for the care of the community,” says the president of the Urban Innovation Foundation, Raffaele Laudani.
In concrete terms, how will the service work? The project outline foresees a start with around a hundred participating businesses, and, to start with, a dozen or so delivery workers—all paid with regular contracts. For the workers, we are talking about wages between €17 gross per hour for employees hired full-time with the protections of the national contract for the sector, and €12.50 gross per hour for those who will be hired under the co.co.co. (Continuative and Coordinated Services Contract) system, with insurance for illness, accidents and bad weather. These figures represent a major leap forward compared to the very low wages—between €6 and €7 gross per hour— guaranteed by the food delivery giants.
“We’ll make it clear to the Bolognese people that using the classic platforms fuels exploitation, and then, with Ethical Deliveries, we’ll give them an alternative,” explains Michele d’Alena from the Foundation, who is preparing a massive information campaign together with others. “What if, when we order a piadina at home, we could create a community?” is the question asked by one of the slogans. In addition to greengrocers, grocers, bakers and pizzerias, entire markets and even a hardware store have already joined the initiative, while there is ongoing dialogue with bookshops and artisans.
Alessandro Blasi, from the small social co-op Idee in Movimento, has been working on the project for months, and describes it as follows: “We want to make ethical a segment of the working world with regard to which there is total deregulation. We’re starting with delivery, but in the long view, we want to go further. For example, during the lockdown we experimented with the delivery of masks and items from shops to those who needed them, and we realized that food is only a small part of the issue. So, why not imagine a service of educators on bicycles going around the city, delivering what is needed to the elderly or other people in isolation, and also implementing social welfare interventions?”
“For us shopkeepers, it will be, first of all, a great entrepreneurial and ethical challenge,” says Roberto Cipriano, president of the association of shopkeepers at the market in Via Albani, in the Bolognina district. “The delivery platforms charge merchants an average of 35% of the final price to the customer,” Cipriano says, “money that is used to accumulate profits on the backs of the riders. Our challenge will be to shift this accumulation dynamic in favor of the delivery worker and the merchant. And we will be transparent with customers about the additional costs, if any, and about why Ethical Deliveries will still be the right choice.”