law rider | “Platforms are better off paying fines than complying with the rider law”

“People think that now we are all hired thanks to the law riderBut it’s not like that at all.” David works as a delivery man for Stuart, one of the subcontractors that use large platforms such as Glovo, Uber or Just Eat to camouflage their delivery men and avoid hiring staff. He does it a year after the entry into force of the rider law, a rule that presupposed the “employment” of the riders of digital platforms, but that in practice has been very watered down and with the sector in rebellion.

On August 12, 2021 -just a year ago- the Government’s grace period ended for the platforms to apply the rule. More than 365 days later Glovo still has a fleet made up mainly of fake self-employed. The Catalan company has exploded in the market due to the outrage of competitors such as Uber Eats -which has denounced Glovo- and has recently threatened the Government with offering the option of making deliveries on its own. The Ministry of Labor has announced that it will be very hard to enforce compliance with the standard, but Uber has already notified Minister Yolanda Díaz in a letter in which she warned: “Should we follow the Glovo model?”

“If there is a company that does not pay social security to employees, nor does it give them vacations or pay a minimum wage and the state does nothing, obviously it is going to offer the cheapest service, but at the cost of exploiting the employees. Uber’s position makes sense, pressuring the government to do something because it is unfair competition,” says Adrián Todolí, a professor at the University of Valencia (UV) specializing in labor law.

“If you want breakfast from a trendy restaurant to be brought to your home on a Sunday morning, you can’t pay three euros”

Adrián Todolí – Professor of labor law at the UV

Actually, something has been done; Glovo has already faced several million-dollar fines for having false self-employed workers, but as Todolí warns, “the platform is much better off paying the fines than complying with the rider law and changing the model.” That is why the labor law specialist claims change the sanctioning system to these companies so that the fines are truly dissuasive. “It’s like the cases of soccer players who skipped the restrictions in the pandemic and the fines they gave him were one day of their salary, they didn’t care if they paid them,” he explains.

Flotas in subcontractors

Another of the formulas that digital platforms have found to avoid the rider law has been the subcontractors. Companies like Stuart, Delivers, Delorean began to sprout in the cities after the passage of the rider law, with their respective “self-employed” delivery men working for them. The reality is that the fleets of platforms such as Uber were fed by these secondary companies or in some cases Temporary Employment Companies (ETT) instead of hiring their delivery men.

It is the case of Just Eat in the city of Valencia, that used as deliverers to workers of the ETT “JY Hiring”. The Provincial Inspection of Labor and Social Security forced the digital platform to hire 150 delivery men as workers, after a complaint filed by the CNT union last July.

Antonio Ruiz is the Labor lawyer who processed the lawsuit, and explains that “many companies, after the publication of the rider law have moved their fleet to temporary work agencies or subcontractors“. In the case of Glovo, which from the beginning has openly refused to comply with the law, new mechanisms have been seen to try to eliminate that “presumption of employment” from the legislative text. “It changed the terms so that the riders billed directly with the restaurants and that the main company did not do it,” says Ruiz. The lawyer also clarifies that the Ministry of Labor has warned bars and restaurants that use riders as delivery people that they could also incur an illegality.

Another of the difficulties in enforcing the norm is the very slow time of justice. “Since it is the labor inspection that intervenes the processes take a long time, they can be two or three years. And when the sentence comes out, the company has already made enough profits to pay the penalty and more,” he explains. Like Todolí, he also misses a modification of the penalties. David, who belongs to the CGT union, explains that in his case, ” We have denounced the new Glovo model with the restaurants, but the inspection is still investigating the old one, which they no longer use, and will not start with this one until they are finished,” he denounces.

Fast, cheap and at home

David explains that, in the case of Glovo, as only hires workers from its supermarkets as store personnel, and not the delivery men. “That may be only 20% of the workforce on the payroll,” he explains. These establishments, known as ghost supermarkets, are warehouses scattered around cities with staff preparing orders for customers.

This model has grown a lot with the rider law and has experienced a huge expansion with the arrival of companies such as Gorillas and Getir, who promised “ultra-fast deliveries” and take the order to your house “in less than ten minutes”. These companies that make money with the purchase of the supermarket in minutes recently landed but a year later they have announced layoffs and closure of many stores in Valencia and in Spain. Gorillas has announced that it is leaving the country and Getir continues to operate although with fewer delivery men.

This service with such low prices is only possible at the cost of cutting labor rights. As Todolí explains “it is a luxury service. If you want breakfast from the trendy restaurant to be brought to your home on a Sunday morning, you cannot pay three euros. It can be done, but the price of the service is logical to rise, and if not, it is at the cost of exploiting and underpaying the workers,” he denounces.

David criticizes that the Government “He has made a law but he does not enforce it, and that makes you have legitimacy on the ground”. For the trade unionist, the text is “incomplete” and criticizes that “what we have seen recently with Glovo and Uber Eats is a blow to democracy, what it shows is that these multinationals have more power than the government of a country, or for least they can stand up to him,” he says.

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