Spain approved a law protecting delivery workers. Here’s what you need to know

Spain's move to recognize gig workers as employees has rankled companies, as well as some unions.

Spain approved a law protecting delivery workers. Here’s what you need to know

A controversial law regulating delivery workers, known as the Rider Law, was ratified by Spain’s cabinet on Tuesday. It requires online delivery platforms operating in the country to classify their couriers as employees, rather than independent contractors.

Despite the government’s efforts, many parties, including trade unions, are unhappy with the law. Some say it’s moving too slowly; others don’t want it at all. But what does it mean for the future of gig work both in the country and across Europe?

How did we get here?

Led by Spain’s Labor Minister Yolanda Díaz, negotiations first began last fall. The aim was to convert a Supreme Court ruling from September — which found that one courier working for Spanish delivery company Glovo was indeed an employee — into law.

After several delays and tense discussions, labor unions and business associations came to an agreement in March. Platform couriers were now to be reclassified as employees, and labor unions must be informed of how algorithms affect couriers’ working conditions.

“They are now considered as salaried workers and will enjoy all the relevant protections,” Díaz said in a televised address at the time.

Everyone satisified?

No. The likes of the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) — a major Spanish labor union that participated in the negotiations with industry — and couriers’ collective Rider X Derechos say the new law is too soft on industry. Despite being ratified today, companies have three months to comply with the law, which the UGT believes is too long. Platforms will take advantage of the time to slim down their courier fleets before the deadline, it says.

Rider X Derechos believes the law is too narrow, since it only applies to couriers and not other gig workers — a wider scope was pushed off the table during negotiations. “We are again insisting that any new regulation is not solely focused on ‘riders’, as false self-employment goes far beyond our own sector,” the collective said in a statement in February.

Another courier collective, the Asociación Autónoma de Riders, opposes the law because it believes platforms will cut them loose in order to keep smaller payrolls. It sent a letter to EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit, asking him to intervene and stop the regulation from coming into force, but the Commission has little power to intervene in national labor law.

What are the companies saying?

The new law is indeed at odds with a business model that depends on a vast fleet of readily available, “flexible” couriers. Uber Eats warned that the law spells an end to Spain’s gig economy.

An Uber Eats spokesperson said the regulation will “directly hurt thousands of couriers who use food delivery apps for much-needed flexible earnings opportunities and made it clear they do not want to be classified as employees.”

“It will also impact Spanish restaurants that increasingly rely on delivery solutions to make ends meet,” the spokesperson added.

The company points to industry research suggesting that over 75 percent of the 30,000 platform couriers in Spain would lose their source of income. The Adigital report also claims restaurants would lose €250 million in additional revenue.

What does this mean for the EU?

With the European Commission’s initiative on platform working conditions coming up later this year, industry, labor unions and policymakers are closely following developments in the gig economy.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has said the EU “must” follow in Spain’s steps, a sentiment shared by the likes of French MEP Leïla Chaibi, a vocal defender of platform workers’ rights.

Instead of looking to Spain, Uber points to its policy in the U.K.: following a supreme court ruling that declared Uber drivers are “workers” — a separate labor category specific to Britain with more rights than independent contractors but fewer than “employees” — the platform committed to giving its drivers vacation time and pension rights.

But the Commission’s digital chief Margrethe Vestager isn’t keen on implementing such a policy throughout Europe. “In my experience, discussions become extremely complex when you want to create a new category,” she told POLITICO in February.

Díaz, the labor minister, wrote a joint op-ed with Italy’s Minister of Labor and Social Policy Andrea Orlando welcoming the Commission’s upcoming initiative, and warned against coronavirus recovery measures that “fall into the error of promoting employment through precarious contracts and poor quality working conditions.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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Boris Johnson boosts ‘leveling up’ plan with yet another task force

New unit to make good on flagship promise is expected to report directly to the cabinet secretary.

Boris Johnson boosts ‘leveling up’ plan with yet another task force

LONDON — Boris Johnson will try to make good on his “leveling up” election slogan with a new dedicated team of civil servants, POLITICO has learned.

“Leveling up” has been widely used since Johnson’s 2019 election victory to frame the U.K. prime minister’s ambition to tackle regional inequality. It was placed front and center of Johnson’s latest legislative program in the Queen’s Speech Tuesday.

In an expanded take on its meaning, the government has badged much of its domestic policy agenda as part of the “leveling up” plan, including its housing, education and climate goals.

Neil O’Brien, a Conservative MP and former Treasury aide, was recently recruited to advise Johnson on honing a strategy some have accused of lacking focus. 

In the latest bid to drive the program, officials have confirmed that a new “leveling up” task force is being set up, with responsibility shared between No. 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.

It is understood the unit’s director will report directly to Simon Case, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, and will lead a team of around 15 staff hand-picked from within the civil service, working in concert with O’Brien.  

One name being linked to the job of director is Tom Walker, currently director of environment strategy at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and former head of cities and growth in the Ministry of Housing. 

One former colleague of Walker said: “He is one of the only ones at the top level who is both brilliant and able to work the machinery, respected by regional leaders and by the Tories.”

The move places yet another big policy conundrum under the remit of Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office, which has already claimed responsibility for a COVID-19 task force, a Union unit to try to stave off the threat of Scottish independence, and a review of vaccine passports.

A “delivery” unit was also added to No. 10 last month to oversee progress on manifesto policies.

The government on Tuesday spelled out its intention to publish a white paper this year with detail of how different policies under the “leveling up” umbrella are affecting living standards in the U.K.

A Whitehall official said the timing of the next election will depend on “defensible progress” made by O’Brien and civil servants against the agenda, which is perceived as key to cementing Conservative gains in traditional Labour-voting areas.

Source : Politico EU More   

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