In Spain, the labor inspectorate of Valencia has ruled that bicycle messengers (“riders”) working for digital platforms—in this case, Deliveroo—are not self-employed, but rather employees: “The qualification of ‘independent’ does not properly define their activities. The relationship at the level of civil law hides what is in reality a relationship of employment.”
This is the textbook redefinition you’ll find within the so-called “gig economy”—the declassification of semi-subordinate (“insourcing”) work as self-employed freelance work. The difference between the two is clear: All taxes, social security contributions and insurance costs are paid by the “rider” and not by the company, which can therefore increase its profits. Accordingly, the Spanish labor inspectorate fined Deliveroo €160,814, representing unpaid contributions.
Deliveroo announced that it would appeal this decision: the “riders” are “service providers” and are not tied to their company in a relationship of employment. The company also claims to have made changes to the contracts with its “riders,” and that it no longer calls them “self-employed” but “economically dependent self-employed.”
According to the labor inspectorate, this change is not enough to rectify the situation: “The platform is not a client of the worker, but the means by which they connect with a multitude of clients. The real contractual relationship must prevail over the pretend or purported agreement,” which is of a solely “commercial relationship” between the individual and the platform.
A bicycle “rider” earns €3.38 per delivery, and 40 cents more if they are using a motorcycle. The members of the platform “Riders por derechos” (“Riders for rights”) have ensured that similar complaints are being investigated in Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Alicante, Seville and another city in Galicia. There are around a thousand bicycle messengers working for Deliveroo in Spain.
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