Spanish Elections Gig Workers vs Far Right

Spanish Elections Gig Workers vs Far Right

Riders in Spain: Fighting for Rights in the Heat of the Gig Economy

Delivery Rider

Introduction

The gig economy has revolutionized the way we work, providing flexibility and convenience for both workers and consumers. However, the rise of gig work has also raised concerns about workers’ rights and labor conditions. In Spain, the debate over the rights of platform workers, especially food delivery riders, has become a battleground between workers, unions, lawmakers, and big tech companies. Against the backdrop of a scorching heatwave, riders are campaigning for their rights, seeking greater job security, fair treatment, and improved working conditions.

Riders in the Heatwave

In Madrid, the streets are broiling under a heatwave as Fernando García, a delivery rider for Glovo, braves the scorching temperatures. While García considers himself lucky as a contracted employee, he empathizes with other riders who spend long hours on the road, facing unbearable heat without any respite. Some restaurants even deny them basic amenities like using the toilet. The sweltering conditions highlight the urgent need for riders’ rights and protections.

Spain’s Polarized Political Landscape

The issue of platform workers’ rights in Spain has become entangled in the country’s polarized political environment. For the left, these workers symbolize the necessity of strong labor rights to prevent further precarization of work. On the other hand, the right views gig work as a showcase of the freedom technology can bring, advocating for minimal government intervention. With an upcoming election, the ideological divide surrounding gig work is set to take center stage.

The Impact of the Election

The upcoming elections in Spain hold significant implications for platform workers. Depending on the outcome, the rights that riders have fought for may be in jeopardy. The ruling coalition, supported by Basque and Catalan nationalists, is poised against a potential alliance between the conservative and far-right parties. If the right-wing parties secure power, the gains made by platform workers in Spain may be reversed. Furthermore, the election’s outcome could shape the future of gig work regulations across Europe, as the EU negotiates a regional law governing platform work.

The Riders Law: Defining Employment Status

The debate over whether gig workers should be classified as employees or self-employed has been central to the platform work controversy. In Spain, the Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that riders and drivers for companies like Glovo, Uber Eats, and Just Eat were employees. As a result, the government introduced “the Riders Law,” recognizing gig workers as employees and granting workers’ representatives the right to access information on platform algorithms. This legislation marked the first of its kind in Europe.

Varying Responses from Food Delivery Platforms

Spain’s three major food delivery platforms responded differently to the introduction of the Riders Law. Just Eat had already transitioned its riders to employment contracts in 2020, signing a collective agreement with Spanish unions. Uber Eats, on the other hand, began hiring riders exclusively through subcontractors, maintaining that they were employees of the subcontractors rather than of Uber Eats itself. Glovo made adjustments to its model, allowing riders to set their own prices within limits and claiming that this autonomy justified their classification as self-employed.

Challenges to the Riders Law

Despite the Riders Law, concerns remained regarding the enforcement of employment rights. Investigations and appeals processes proved time-consuming, delaying sanctions for companies found to be falsely hiring workers as self-employed. In response, a new employment law in March 2021 empowered the Labor Inspectorate, enabling them to impose fines and require platform companies to employ workers before appealing decisions. Glovo, in particular, has faced significant fines, with more likely to follow.

Divided Workers’ Groups

Workers’ groups involved in the platform work debate have also found themselves divided. RidersXDerechos and trade unions supported the Riders Law, arguing that employment contracts were crucial to ensuring fair wages and labor conditions. They pointed to the pandemic as evidence of the risks faced by self-employed riders classified as essential workers. However, another group called Sí, Soy Autonomo emerged, opposing the Riders Law on the grounds that it would lead to job losses and reduced flexibility. The UGT, Spain’s largest union, claimed that Sí, Soy Autonomo was an astroturf campaign supported by Glovo.

The Impact of the Riders Law

Opinions on the effectiveness of the Riders Law are divided. According to Alberto Riesco Sanz, a coordinator of Fairwork Spain, Just Eat has successfully implemented the law, leading to notable improvements in working conditions. However, Gustavo Gaviria, a spokesperson for Repartidores Unidos, argues that precariousness in the sector has increased as a result of the law. The effectiveness of the Riders Law depends on the political landscape and the extent to which it is prioritized by the government.

The Influence of the Election

The outcome of the July 23 election in Spain will have far-reaching implications for platform work within and beyond the country’s borders. Spain currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, allowing it to negotiate the council’s position on the Platform Work Directive with the European Parliament. If the Spanish government changes, the presidency’s position on employment rights for platform workers may also change. Consequently, the fate of platform work regulation in the EU will be significantly influenced by Spain’s political landscape.

Workers’ Rights Amidst Extreme Weather

While the political battleground rages on, riders continue to face practical challenges, such as working in extreme weather conditions. In May 2021, the Spanish government introduced a new law that grants outdoor workers the right to refrain from working during official weather warning alerts. Although this law applies to riders, it does not extend to those working as independent contractors for Uber Eats and Glovo, leaving them vulnerable to the elements without any legal protection.

Conclusion

The battle for the rights of platform workers in Spain reflects a global struggle in the gig economy. As riders fight for secure, dignified work with adequate rights and protections, their demands are caught in a clash between different political perspectives. The upcoming election in Spain will determine not only the fate of platform workers in the country but also the direction of platform work regulations across Europe. As the gig economy continues to evolve and expand, ensuring fair treatment and improved working conditions for platform workers remains an ongoing challenge.

Note: The information and perspectives presented in this article are based on the original content and do not necessarily reflect the author’s views or beliefs.